Yoji Yamada's Love And Honor, the final film in hissamurai trilogy, ranked number one at Japan's box office on its opening weekend, beating Bondpicture Casino Royale which it openedhead-to-head against.

Love And Honor earned $3.8m (Y437m) over the three-day weekend from 354 screens for a$10,734 screen average, while Sony Pictures' Casino Royale took in $3.27m (Y375m) from 453 screens for a $7,218screen average, ranking in the number two position.

While new releases usuallyopen on Saturdays, both titles were released on Friday Dec 1, designated as"movie day" in Japan, with tickets sold at a discounted price of 1,000 yen.

Produced and distributed byJapanese major Shochiku, quiet samurai drama Love And Honor stars major singing and TV talent Takuya Kimura ofpopular band SMAP in his second feature film role since Wong Kar-wai's 2046. Kimura also voiced the characterof Howl in Studio Ghibli's Howl's MovingCastle.

The studio displayedconfidence in the film, giving it the widest release ever in the studio'sproduction history. Shochiku originally pegged final grosses at $43.36m (Y5bn),but the opening figures, while strong, leave some doubt. Meanwhile six localfilms have surpassed that amount this year, easily beating any previous recordsin one of the best years ever for Japanese films.

Previous Bond entry Die Another Day, released in 2003 inJapan, earned $20.38m (Y2.35bn) ranking it just outside that year's top twenty.

Casino Royale has grossed $73.45m in the UK, making it the most successful entry in thefranchise's 21-film history. It's expected to reach $200m worldwide after thisweekend's international grosses are tallied.