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Jennifer Aniston finally gets box office 'Break'

Written by: Staff
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LOS ANGELES, June 5 (Reuters) While her former husband is playing daddy in Namibia, Jennifer Aniston is basking in her new role as Hollywood's latest movie star.

Her new romantic comedy ''The Break-Up,'' co-starring real-life companion Vince Vaughn, stunned industry observers by taking the top spot at the North American box office with ticket sales of about 38.1 million dollars during its first three days, according to studio estimates issued yesterday.

The Universal Pictures release, which was savaged by critics, had been expected to open in the million range behind reigning champ ''X-Men: The Last Stand,'' which slipped to No. 2 with .4 million in its second weekend.

Certainly, few observers were expecting it to break the former ''Friends'' star's mediocre run at the box office. Of her two wide releases last year, ''Derailed'' stalled at 36 million dollars, while ''Rumor Has It'' fell silent at million. Still, she has some way to go to catch up with ex-husband Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the mother of his new baby girl. Their movie together, ''Mr.

&Mrs. Smith,'' earned 186 million dollars last year.

Vaughn's last movie, ''Wedding Crashers,'' opened to 33 million dollars last year, and earned more than 200 million dollars, propelled by glowing reviews and strong word of mouth.

'DUMB MOVIE' ''The Break-Up,'' a 52 million dollars project that Vaughn helped write, revolves around a couple whose relationship is on the rocks, but choose to stay together in their Chicago apartment.

''What's a smart comedienne doing in such a dumb movie?'' asked the Wall Street Journal.

The nation's female moviegoers begged to disagree, as women comprised 67 per cent of the audience, according to Universal.

Exit polling also indicated that most viewers went because of the humor -- a reflection of how well Universal marketed the surprisingly dark movie.

''There is humor in it, just not the saccharine type of humor you expect,'' said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at the General Electric Co.-owned studio. ''People genuinely like Vince and Jennifer, and they like to be entertained.'' MORE REUTERS SI RK1038

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