'Soldiers' musters biggest audience

— Mel Gibson rallied the movie-going troops for "We Were Soldiers," his Vietnam War saga that debuted as the top weekend film with $20.2 million.

Last weekend's No. 1 movie, the vampire tale "Queen of the Damned," suffered the curse of many horror flicks and tumbled to sixth place. Fright films often debut strongly as hardcore fans turn out in big numbers, then plummet the next weekend.

About 75 percent of the audience for "We Were Soldiers" was older than 25. War films usually draw a heavily male audience, but women made up a strong 44 percent share of the crowds.

"I think Mel Gibson may have had something to do with that," said Wayne Lewellen, head of distribution for Paramount, which released "We Were Soldiers."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters:

1. "We Were Soldiers," $20.2 million.

2. "40 Days and 40 Nights," $12.5 million.

3. "John Q," $8.4 million.

4. "Dragonfly," $6.8 million.

5. "Return to Never Land," $6.5 million.

6. "Queen of the Damned," $5.8 million.

7. "Big Fat Liar," $4.8 million.

8. "A Beautiful Mind," $4.4 million.

9. "Crossroads," $4 million.

10. "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," $3.1 million.


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