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Stellar opening day for ‘War of the Worlds’

Spielberg's new blockbuster rakes in $21 million on a Wednesday
/ Source: Reuters

The new Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg movie “War of the Worlds” took in $21.3 million during its first day in U.S. and Canadian theaters, the biggest Wednesday debut for a Paramount Pictures movie.

Worldwide, the film about an alien invasion of Earth, raked in an additional $13.3 million for a global opening of $34.6 million, Los Angeles-based Paramount said in a statement Thursday.

Some commentators have speculated about a public backlash against Cruise for his behavior in recent television interviews in which he enthusiastically professed his love for actress Katie Holmes and trumpeted the views of Scientology, his religion.

But the movie drew generally strong reviews, and fans turned out in solid numbers for the Spielberg-directed film.

“We’ve got a dream team of Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg and they’ve both delivered yet again,” Rob Friedman, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures Motion Pictures Group, said in a statement.

Movie ticket sales have been down for 18 straight weeks in the United States and Canada, and Hollywood is looking for something to help it break out of the doldrums.

The Wednesday debut of “War of the Worlds” at the domestic box offices tops $15 million by “Batman Begins” earlier this month, but not the $40 million from “Spider-Man 2” last year.

“Spider-Man 2” hit theaters at the same time last summer with the pent-up demand that a sequel brings, whereas “War of the Worlds” does not have the immediate fan base of a sequel.

As a result, “War of the Worlds” will be hard-pressed to beat the $180 million “Spider-Man 2” tallied in domestic theaters in its first six days, box office watchers said.

One of the top all-time blockbusters, Columbia Pictures’ ”Spider-Man 2” debuted in 4,100 U.S. and Canadian theaters last year versus roughly 3,900 for “War of the Worlds”

Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc.