By the Numbers: May 16

All hail the conquering “Clones.”

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones isn’t likely to smash Spider-Man‘s record-busting $114.8 million opening, but the fifth in George Lucas‘ sci-fi saga should eclipse the $431 million earned in 1999 by Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Although eagerly anticipated, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace endured harsh criticism for its plodding pacing and the introduction of perceived racial stereotype Jar Jar Binks. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones‘ stronger reviews should enable it to enjoy a longer and healthier run than its immediate predecessor.

But that won’t help Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones challenge Spider-Man‘s amazing debut. Spider-Man opened at 3,615 theaters, representing 7,500-plus screens. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones will debut Thursday in 3,100 theaters, representing 6,000-plus screens. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones could, however, match Spider-Man‘s debut in its first four days.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace made $28.5 million on its first day–a record at the time–but its weekend gross of $64.8 failed to beat The Lost World: Jurassic Park‘s $72.1 million. Still, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace went on to become only the second film to break $400 during its initial run, the other being Titanic. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace now ranks as the fourth highest-grossing film domestically.

No other blockbuster-to-be dares to cross the path of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones until the June 14 arrival of Scooby-Doo. Yet Anakin Skywalker does face somewhat of a threat from the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the bid to earn the biggest gross of the year.

Spider-Man broke the $200 million mark in a record nine days. Such a feat took 13 days for both Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The web-slinger also will easily amass $300 million in less than the record 28 days that it took Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Spider-Man experienced a mere 38 percent drop in business in its second weekend, earning a stunning $71.4 million. That stands as the best second-weekend and the fourth best-weekend hauls.

Even with the arrival of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Spider-Man could conceivably make another $35 million this weekend.
With $228.2 million through Monday, Spider-Man looks set to swing his way to $400 million.

Hugh Grant isn’t afraid to go one on one with the Empire.

In 1999, Grant‘s Notting Hill proved the perfect alternate to those who found nothing amorous about Anakin Skywalker’s introduction to the Force. Notting Hill, which opened two weeks after Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, took in $116 million.

Of course, Grant had some help from Julia Roberts.

The fate of About a Boy rests solely on Grant‘s shoulders. His co-stars include veterans of several blockbusters, Rachel Weisz (The Mummy series) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), but neither were the key draw. Also, Universal Pictures is not selling About a Boy as the latest offering from American Pie chefs Chris & Paul Weitz. A wise move, considering About a Boy is a mature romantic comedy, whereas American Pie reveled in its anything-goes brand of juvenile antics.

About a Boy isn’t likely to duplicate the success of Notting Hill, which opened with $21.8 million and eventually became Grant‘s biggest U.S. hit to date. This adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel will debut in a modest 1,100 theaters in advance of a Memorial Day holiday weekend expansion. So Grant should brace himself for $8 million to $10 million. If audiences fall head over heels in love with Grant‘s roguish and self-absorbed bachelor-as British audiences already have–then About a Boy should match the $52.7 million earned in 1994 by Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Grant can take heart from the performance of Richard Gere‘s Unfaithful, which opened last weekend to a sturdy $14.1 million and has $15.5 million through Monday. That gives Gere–who’s been in a slump in recent years–his best opening since 1999’s Runaway Bride ($35 million). There’s the Julia Roberts factor in play once again.

Unfaithful also almost doubled the $7.8 million that Intersection, another extramarital cautionary tale starring Gere and based on a French film, opened with in 1994 before crashing to a halt with $20.6 million.

Director Adrian Lyne can’t expect his sexually charged drama, a remake of the 1968 French film La Femme Infidele, to repeat the great success of his Fatal Attraction ($156.6 million) or Indecent Proposal ($106.6 million). The equally glossy Unfaithful should tumble to about $8 million in its second weekend, then vanish when confronted May 24 by Enough and Insomnia. Still, Lyne should be happy for a $40 million total after the disaster that was his controversial 1998 remake of Lolita ($1.1 million total).

The New Guy in high school also got off to a better-than-expected start, considering that this DJ Qualls farce sat on the shelf for one year.

Not that The New Guy‘s $9 million represents a comeback of sorts for the boorish teen comedy, which has fallen out of favor in recent years because of such pitiful endeavors as Freddy Got Fingered, Slackers, Sorority Boys and Tomcats.

The New Guy should do a little better than National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, which opened in April with $7 million and has collected a mere $21 million through Sunday. Budgeted at $13 million, The New Guy has $9.5 million through Monday. It will turn a modest profit but won’t likely spawn a sequel a la American Pie.

Unfaithful and The New Guy put up much more of a fight against Spider-Man than Deuces Wild and Hollywood Ending did the previous weekend.

Deuces Wild fell out of the Top 10 in its second weekend. It slid 54 percent from $2.7 million to $1.2 million. The 1950s gang rumble was delayed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Judging by its puny $5 million total through Monday, Deuces Wild hardly benefited from its eight-month delay.

Despite being Woody Allen‘s most accessible comedy in years, Hollywood Ending collapsed by 46 percent in its second weekend, from $2 million to $1 million.

Hollywood Ending has $3.6 million through Sunday, which is poor even by Allen‘s lowly standards. Last year’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion slowed by 35 percent in its second weekend, from $2.4 to $1.5 million. The screwball comedy ended with a disappointing $7.4 million total. Hollywood Ending doesn’t have the staying power to match that.

DreamWorks, which also distributed The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and 2000’s Small Time Crooks, clearly picked the wrong time to unveil Hollywood Ending. Allen‘s good-natured ribbing of the movie industry won’t capitalize now on being selected to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as it would have done later this summer. Competing against Spider-Man is also no job for Allen.

With the summer movie season now underway, many of the April holdovers are enjoying one last spring fling. Ice Age ($171 million through Sunday), Panic Room ($93.2 million through Monday), The Scorpion King ($81.3 million through Monday), The Rookie ($68.3 million through Monday) and Changing Lanes ($57.6 million through Monday) are close to the end of their profitable runs.

The same cannot be said for a handful of popular art house offerings. Y Tu Mama Tambien romanced a strong $615,059 in its ninth week for a torrid $9.3 million total through Sunday. The Cat’s Meow purred its way to a five-week total of $1.8 million on Sunday after a $335,681 weekend.

Monsoon Weddingearned $543,361 in its 12th week for a total $9.7 million through Sunday. My Big Fat Greek Wedding received a $1.2 million gift after expanding from 147 theaters to 247 theaters in its fourth weekend, bringing its total to $4.1 million through Sunday.

Love is definitely in the air.