LOS ANGELES, March 11 (Xinhua) -- "300," an ancient epic about the famous Battle of Thermopylae in Greek history, set a new record at the box office in North America this weekend, dwarfing other films in theaters in a way like its heroes elegantly slaughtering their Persian enemies.
The Warner Bros. adaptation of the 480 B.C. battle took an estimated 70 million U.S. dollars in its debut weekend, according to figures released on Sunday by Los Angeles-based box office track firm Media by Numbers.
"300" is expected to be the strongest March movie opening ever.That honor was previously held by Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown," which grossed just over 68 million dollars when it opened last year.
The R-rated film, based on comic book writer Frank Miller's graphic novel, tells the story that an army of 300 Spartan warriors led by their king Leonidas fought to the death to delay a massive Persian army's invasion, so that the Greeks could reorganize a counterattack.
Last week's box office leader, "Wild Hogs," slipped to second at the box office with an estimated gross of 28 million dollars for the weekend, while Disney's children fantasy "Bridge to Terabitha" climbed a spot at No. 3, with nearly 6.9 million dollars for the weekend.
Following at the box office were action movie "Ghost Rider" starring Nicolas Cage, and thriller "Zodiac" about a serial killer who terrorized northern California more than 30 years ago, with an estimated 6.8 million dollars each.
The Nicolas Cage film, which is in its fourth week of release, has racked up an estimated 104.1 million dollars at the box office so far, becoming the first to break the 100-million-dollar mark this year.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an estimated 139.4 million dollars, up 49.3 percent over the same weekend last year.