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'Passion' a box-office miracle

Los Angeles -- Mel Gibson's gamble on "The Passion of the Christ" paid off enormously, riding a storm of religious debate to a $117.5 million haul in its first five days, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"The Passion," which debuted on Ash Wednesday, rocketed to the No. 1 box-office slot for the weekend with $76.2 million from Friday to Sunday.

The first movie released in 2004 to cross the $100 million mark, "The Passion" easily passed the weekend's No. 2 flick, "50 First Dates" at $88.7 million, as the year's top-grossing film.

Once considered a niche film that would appeal mainly to conservative Christians, the bloody chronicle of Christ's crucifixion swelled to blockbuster proportions as Gibson rallied church groups to support it and accusations of anti-Semitism brought mainstream attention.

The Ashley Judd crime thriller "Twisted" debuted at No. 3 with $9.1 million from Friday to Sunday. "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," a prequel to the 1980s hit, opened in fifth place with $5.9 million. The horror spoof "Broken Lizard's Club Dread" premiered at No. 10 with $3 million.

'Crouching Tiger' star sues tabloid

Hong Kong -- Action star Chow Yun-Fat is suing a tabloid magazine for a story claiming he sought treatment for an injury, newspapers reported Sunday.

Chow, who starred in Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Anna and the King," filed the defamation lawsuit against Easy Finder on Saturday, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Chinese-language magazine article claimed that Chow injured himself during filming, according to Ming Pao, a Chinese-language daily.

The lawsuit says Chow is healthy and has "suffered loss and damage to his professional career as an actor and in particular an action movie star," as a result of the Jan. 28 article, according to the Post.

Kerry's got a friend

Athens, Ga.-- Singer Carole King crooned "You've Got a Friend" in Athens as part of a two-day tour of Georgia for John Kerry.

The singer-songwriter sang the praises of the Massachusetts senator during visits to Athens, Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah. She performed and answered questions from the audience about Kerry during stops.

"We are part of a movement," King told about 200 people Saturday at a downtown Athens coffeehouse. "Everywhere I go, I see a light in people's eyes. It is the light of hope."

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