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Monday, 8 May, 2000, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Gladiator's box office triumph
Hollywood's latest blockbuster, Gladiator, has topped the US box office charts after taking an estimated $32.7m (£20.4m) in its opening weekend.
Ridley Scott's epic tale of ancient Rome - which features the late Oliver Reed in his final role - grossed more than the next six movies put together.
The weekend's other big release, Kim Basinger's I Dreamed Of Africa, did not fare so well, pulling in a disappointing $2.5m (£1.5m) to languish in eighth place.
The figures are based on studio estimates.
Gladiator is Hollywood's first Roman epic since Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier starred in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus back in 1960.
Russell Crowe plays the great Roman general Maximus, fresh from victory in another battle.
The dying Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) wants Maximus to replace him, but the heir to the throne, Commodus - played by Joaquin Phoenix - is jealous and orders the execution of his rival's young family.
Forced to enter slavery after narrowly escaping death himself, Maximus is determined to exact revenge by returning as a gladiator.
The film runs for two-and-a-half hours and has received rave reviews. It is released in the UK on Friday.
"This is a real Roman epic, the kind of spectacle that hasn't been seen for 30 plus years," Dreamworks studio's head of distribution Jim Tharp enthused.
Paul Dergarabedian, the president of Exhibitor Relations, which supplies the box office figures, said: "The trailers Dreamworks showed were very effective in getting audiences psyched and the movie had all the elements people were looking for."
Gladiator's all-star cast also includes Connie Nielsen and the late Oliver Reed, who died after a drinking session while on location in Malta - with the film still unfinished.
Reed gives a memorable final performance as Proximo, the man who teaches Maximus the importance of being popular, and Scott employed special effects to complete the outstanding scenes.
Gladiator is expected to become one of the summer's biggest movies, but Basinger's I Dreamed Of Africa looks like becoming a box office flop.
A spokesman for Sony, who released the film, admitted: "Kim got very good reviews, but unfortunately the film as a whole did not. Adult films like this are really driven by good, solid reviews."