Despite Episode II's blockbuster arrival, Spider-Man showed incredibly strong legs. Its 36 percent drop to second place with $46 million set a new third weekend record. With its cume now at $286.5 million, Spidey is heading for $400 million or more in domestic theaters.
Driven by Star Wars and Spider-Man, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- did over $171 million, up 78 percent from last year's $96.2 million. This was the third consecutive pre-summer weekend in which key films did wildly better than one year earlier. Last weekend they soared 63 percent over last year. For the weekend of May 3-5 they were up 50 percent.
THE TOP TEN
20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's PG rated franchise installment Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones exploded in first place with an ESTIMATED $86.15 million at 3,161 theaters ($27,254 per theater).
After opening to $30,141,417 for Wednesday midnight screenings and Thursday, its four day cume is approximately $116.29 million. By comparison, Spider-Man's record setting opening was $114.8 million for a normal three day weekend (May 3-5).
Star Wars' average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
"That's the third best three day regular weekend opening ever after Spider-Man's $114 million and $90 million for Harry Potter," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning.
"It's the second fastest to $100 million. Of course, Spider-Man did it in three days and this is four. The previous record was Star Wars: Episode I in five days. It opened on a Wednesday (May 19, 1999). Its five day number was $105.659 million. So we've kind of blown past that in four days with $116.291 million on this one. It's just terrific and we're delighted."
Looking back at Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, Snyder noted, "Its Wednesday, the opening day, was $28.5 million. That was the high water mark for the run. The next best day was $24.4 million on Saturday (of weekend one). In this case, we opened to $30.1 million, went to $25.2 million on Friday and Saturday looks like $32.25 million, so it's actually above the opening day and the opening day, remember, had the Midnight shows (from Wednesday) folded in. So this is really a spectacular performance."
Phantom Menace wound up grossing $431.1 million in domestic theaters. Its worldwide total (domestic plus international) was $923 million.
Asked about reports that Clones' Wednesday midnight shows had ticket sales of approximately $6 million, Snyder replied, "Something in that area. It depends on how they got folded into (the total for Thursday), but I think that's a fair estimate."
As for where Clones goes from here, Snyder said, "I'm looking at Episode I as a kind of barometer. It was only off 21 percent on the second weekend because of the (Memorial Day) holiday. So I'm going to hope for that kind of exposure. Certainly, the way the days have gone this is as good as Episode I. If that's an indication, we'll be talking about this all summer long."
Focusing on the health of the overall marketplace, Snyder observed, "It's incredible. Two pictures have $132 million (between them this weekend). Now the amazing part is once you get past Star Wars and Spider-Man, which are their own kind of events, the (other pictures in the Top Ten) had great holds."
Columbia's PG-13 action-adventure sci-fi fantasy Spider-Man descended one peg to second place in its third weekend, showing enviable strength in the face of the Clones' attack.
Spidey took in a remarkable ESTIMATED $46.0 million (-36%) at 3,615 theaters (theater count unchanged; $12,725 per theater). Its cume is approximately $286.5 million, well on its way to $400 million or more in domestic theaters.
"Wonderful news on Spider-Man," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning by phone from the Cannes Film Festival. "That's a second week drop of 38 percent and a third week drop of 36 percent against Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones."
Assessing Spidey's latest records, Blake noted, "It's the fastest (film ever to hit) $250 million -- on day 15. Phantom Menace was the previous fastest at 19 days. It's also the fastest to $275 million -- on day 17 -- whereas Phantom took until day 24, a full week later. So the gap is widening. It's the biggest third weekend gross ever. We now have the biggest first weekend, the biggest second weekend and the biggest third weekend.
"The previous biggest (three day) weekend was Titanic's third weekend with $33.3 million for Jan. 2-4, 1998. The (biggest) four day holiday gross was Twister at $38.0 million (for) Memorial Day weekend May 24-27, 1996."
On top of that, he added, "It's Columbia's biggest movie ever now. As of Friday, it overtook Men in Black, which was $250.7 million."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "It should hit $300 million by Friday (May 24), day 22, and then still have most of the Memorial Day weekend to go. We're finally hitting a holiday -- as opposed to the one we've declared for ourselves!" Spider-Man seems likely to come out of Memorial Day weekend with a cume of around $330 million, which would make $400 million domestically a pretty safe bet.
Focusing on Spider-Man's phenomenal strength, Blake observed, "We're running both a sprint and a marathon. We're getting there very quickly, but we're also going a long way. There's been a lot of discussion about (the film's extremely wide release). All 7,500 prints are still on the screen and I would imagine they will be next week, as well. Again, I think we're doing a pretty good job. Certainly, we're wide, but we're long, also."
As for speculation about whether Spider-Man could reach Titanic's record setting domestic cume of $600.7 million, Blake said, "The drops we're seeing are truly incredible given the level of competition. Titanic really is a story unto itself with completely different circumstances. They opened to a good level at Christmas and then held and held through normal play time in January, February and March. We certainly have gotten off to a very fast start in good play time, but with lots of competition ahead. You never know, but you can only take it one week at a time and each week has been sensational including against what figures to be one of our biggest competitors, Star Wars. To drop less this week against Star Wars. than we did last week without Star Wars. kind of says something about Spider-Man."
20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises' R rated thriller Unfaithful dropped one rung to third place in its second weekend with a still sexy ESTIMATED $10.33 million (-27%) at 2,625 theaters (+11 theaters; $3,933 per theater). Its cume is approximately $29.9 million.
"My jaw dropped (on seeing how well it held up in the face of this weekend's tough competition)," Fox's Bruce Snyder said. "I was hoping we'd get $9 million. This is just terrific. I'm feeling great about its future because it's very adult and it's very different from most things in the market. It looks like it's found its niche. I think it bodes well for the future."
Universal and Studio Canal's PG-13 rated romantic comedy drama About a Boy, from Tribeca and Working Title, opened fourth to a very promising ESTIMATED $8.4 million at 1,207 theaters ($6,960 per theater).
"Given the tremendous competition this weekend, (we're pleased with) the fact that we were able to break through with $8.4 million," Universal senior vice president, national publicity Jeff Sakson said Sunday morning.
"We attracted the audience we wanted to attract, which were older and female. Seventy-two percent of the audience was 30 and older and 69 percent was female. That's who we counter-programmed the movie towards this weekend and that's who showed up. So we accomplished what we set out to do."
Boy will expand to between 1,600 and 1,700 theaters Friday (May 24) for the Memorial Day weekend. "Marc Shmuger (Universal vice chairman) and Nikki Rocco (distribution president) were sort of looking at this weekend as almost like a sneak weekend in advance of the long (holiday) weekend, starting out on fewer screens and just getting our foot in the door, which we did," Sakson noted.
"The per theater average was actually higher than what (Universal and Miramax's hit) Bridget Jones's Diary did last year. They did $6,663 per theater. They did $10.7 million altogether, but they were on 1,600 screens."
Sakson also pointed out that Boy "was incredibly well reviewed. We think the word of mouth will be great. The fact that we got the audience that we thought would love the movie (means) those are now the disciples who can go out and tell their friends about it. We feel good about that. It's a small movie with an all British cast (and it only cost) $27 million."
Columbia's release of Revolution Studios' PG-13 rated low budget comedy The New Guy fell two notches to fifth place in its second week with a solid ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-28%) at 2,687 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,419 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.3 million.
"Pretty darn good," Sony's Jeff Blake said. "It cost $13 million and seems headed to $30 million or better."
Paramount's R rated road rage drama Changing Lanes fell one slot to sixth place in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-21%) at 2,158 theaters (-352 theaters; $1,405 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.6 million, heading for $65-70 million.
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure spinoff The Scorpion King in association with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and Alphaville fell three pegs to seventh place in its fifth week with a slower ESTIMATED $2.73 million (-44%) at 2,555 theaters (-664 theaters; $1,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $85.0 million, heading for $95-100 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family appeal baseball drama The Rookie fell two slots to eighth place in its eighth week with a calm ESTIMATED $2.0 million (-25%) at 1,849 theaters (-268 theaters; $1,068 per theater). Its cume is approximately $70.85 million.
Castle Rock Entertainment's Murder By Numbers slipped two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week via Warner Bros. with a quiet ESTIMATED $1.72 million (-29%) at 1,580 theaters (-536 theaters; $1,085 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.0 million.
Pounding out the Top Ten was IFC Films' PG rated romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which continued to expand in its fifth week with a hopeful ESTIMATED $1.2 million (-5%) at 274 theaters (+27 theaters; $4,380 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.7 million.
This weekend saw the arrival of no other major releases.
This weekend saw DreamWorks hold sneak previews Sunday afternoon of its G rated animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, opening wide Friday (May 24). No details were available Sunday morning. The studio held Spirit sneaks a week earlier on Saturday afternoon.
Directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, it was produced by Mireille Soria and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
On the expansion front this weekend there was no activity to report.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $171.42 million, up about 78.24 percent from last year when they totaled $96.17 million.
Key films this weekend were up about 42.06 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $120.66 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' opening week of Shrek was first with $42.35 million for five days at 3,587 theaters ($11,806 per theater); and Universal's third week of The Mummy Returns was second with $20.44 million at 3,452 theaters ($5,920 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $62.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $132.2 million.