A potent combination of bullets and bees propelled last weekend's U.S. box office chart. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe's bloody crime saga American Gangster took in $46.3 million to lead the list, while Jerry Seinfeld's animated comedy Bee Movie placed second at $39.1 million.
Together, the two hit movies revitalized what had been a sub-par autumn season. "It took three of the biggest stars in the world to get the box office back on track, and they did it in high style with two totally different kinds of movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracker Media By Numbers.
"You had an R-rated movie and a PG-rated movie bringing in a really diverse audience." After six consecutive underperforming weekends, the Top 12 movies took in $127.2 million. That's a 12 percent increase from the same weekend in 2006, when Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan took first place with $26.5 million.
Directed by Ridley Scott, Universal's American Gangster is being named as an early Academy Award favorite. While U.S. audiences have recently proven largely unreceptive to R-rated movies, they flocked to see Denzel Washington's portrayal of the 1970s Harlem crime lord Frank Lucas.
Russell Crowe plays the New Jersey cop hard on his trail. It's the largest opening ever for the two stars: Crowe's previous best was $34.8 million for Gladiator, also directed by Scott. Washington's best opening weekend tally was $29 million for Inside Man.
Dreamworks and Paramount's Bee Movie features Jerry Seinfeld co-writing and providing his voice in the animated tale of a bee suing humanity for stealing his species' hard-earned honey. It's the comedian's first large-scale project since his TV sitcom Seinfeld ended in 1998.