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<i>Inside Man</i> on the top

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    Los Angeles(Reuters): Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee scored the best opening of their careers, as the heist thriller ''Inside Man'' grabbed the No 1 spot at the weekend box office in North America with estimated ticket sales of 29 million dollars. The film, which also stars Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, was the top picture overseas as well, with sales of 9.6 million dollars from 18 countries, including No 1 openings in Britain and Germany, according to distributor Universal Pictures.

    Washington's previous best bow was the kidnap thriller ''Man on Fire,'' which opened with 22.8 million dollars in April 2004. Lee's best was the comedy concert ''The Original Kings of Comedy,'' with 11 million dollars in August 2000. ''Inside Man,'' which cost about 45 million dollars to make, revolves around a cat-and-mouse game between a bank robber (Owen) and a New York cop (Washington). Foster plays an intermediary with her own agenda.

    Universal said exit polling indicated that 68 per cent of the audience was aged 30 and older, and that male viewers comprised 54 per cent. Three-quarters of respondents said Washington was their main reason for going. Universal Pictures is a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal Inc.

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