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North American moviegoers were hungry for Hannibal the Cannibal at the weekendHannibal a thriller starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in a long-awaited follow-up to the 1991 hit The Silence of the Lambs grossed a record-breaking 58 million in its first three days of release in the United States and Canada according to studio estimates issued on SundayIf the numbers hold when final data are issued on Monday Hannibal will replace 2000s Mission Impossible II 579 million as the third-highest bow in movie history after 1997s The Lost World Jurassic Park 72 million and 1999s Star Wars Episode One -- The Phantom Menace 648 million It also set new records for a non-summer opening an R-rated release and for a release by domestic distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer IncI must confess I expected it to be big but not this big Hannibal producer Dino De Laurentiis told Reuters from BerlinIndeed most industry expectations were in the 35 million- 40 million range MGM distribution president Larry Gleason said he had hoped to surpass the 42 million bow of the 2000 horror spoof Scary Movie which held the record for an R-rated releaseThe film stars Hopkins as elegant cannibal Hannibal Lecter When hes not disemboweling or dining on his hapless victims he engages in a transatlantic cat-and-mouse game with FBI agent Clarice Starling played by Julianne Moore Jodie Foster played Starling in Lambs but opted not to return reportedly because of the new films violence Ridley Scott Gladiator directed The original was directed by Jonathan DemmeDe Laurentiis in Berlin for the films screening on Sunday night at the German capitals annual film festival said audiences have conferred hero status on Hannibal LecterWhen hes forced to kill he kills somebody the audience wants to kill too he said Hannibal is a picture in its own Its a picture that will be remembered foreverHe said Hopkins who received a 10 million-plus salary for Hannibal had asked to be in a sequel This was confirmed
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