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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 10:01 GMT
Gibson's Soldiers storm US box office
We Were Soldiers is based on a real soldier's memoirs
We Were Soldiers is based on a real soldier's memoirs
Patriotic war movies continue to be a hit with film fans as We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson, has become the latest to top North America's box office chart.

With Gibson playing an officer in the first major battle of the Vietnam War, the film earned just over $20m (14m) in the United States and Canada over the weekend.

US and Canada box office chart
1. We Were Soldiers
2. 40 Days and 40 Nights
3. John Q
4. Dragonfly
5. Return to Never Land
It follows the post-11 September successes of Behind Enemy Lines and Black Hawk Down, although the takings of We Were Soldiers were at the lower end of film studio expectations.

Romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, starring Josh Hartnett, was second in the chart, while last week's number one, Aaliyah's Queen of the Damned, dropped to number six.

We Were Soldiers takes an apolitical, gung-ho view of the Battle of Ia Drang, in which 400 ill-prepared US troops found themselves surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers in unfamiliar territory.


Mel Gibson is an absolute rock solid star

Paul Dergarabedian
Exhibitor Relations
It was based on the memoirs We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Lt Col Hal Moore, who is played in the film by Gibson.

'Enthralling'

"Mel Gibson is an absolute rock solid star. He just continues to roll along," according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which compiles box office statistics.

"He keeps enthralling audiences with virtually everything he does."

Black Hawk Down topped the box office chart in January
Black Hawk Down topped the box office chart in January
With realistic special effects and graphic violence, it has been compared to Black Hawk Down, another war film that tapped into US audiences' patriotic sentiments .

Film-makers had worried about whether cinema-goers would be able to stomach such films after the attacks on New York and Washington DC, but fans have not shied away from such subjects.

"I think certainly the Sept 11 incident puts people more in the mood for wanting to cheer for the American soldiers," said Wayne Lewellen, head of distribution for Paramount, the studio that released We Were Soldiers.

Sex ban

Black Hawk Down star Josh Hartnett took a very different role for 40 Days and 40 Nights, in which he plays a man who tries to get over breaking up with his girlfriend by giving up sex.

Aaliyah
Aaliyah died after making Queen of the Damned
Denzel Washington's thriller John Q was third in the box office chart, while Kevin Costner's comeback Dragonfly moved down one place to number four.

Queen of the Damned lost 61% of its audience compared with last week - but fans of such films are known for their enthusiasm in the first week of release.

"It's not too abnormal to see big drop-offs on a horror movie," according to Dan Fellman, head of distribution at film studio Warner Bros.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | England
War epic ignores Cornish hero
08 Feb 02 | Film
Collateral Damage debuts
21 Jan 02 | Film
Black Hawk shoots down Rings
01 Jan 02 | Film
Enemy Lines gamble 'pays off'
07 Dec 01 | Showbiz
Hollywood execs in 'war summit'
13 Sep 01 | Film
Hollywood 'changed forever'
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