8 Mile was miles away in second place with $21.3 million, but heading for a profitable $130 million in domestic theaters.
The Santa Clause 2 was a jolly third with $15.1 million.
The Ring finished fourth, holding well with $11 million as its cume hit $101.6 million.
Half Past Dead opened half-dead in fifth place to $8.2 million.
Driven by Harry Potter, key films were up nearly 8 percent from last year--$168.4 million versus $156.3 million.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros.' PG rated sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets materialized in first place to a spellbinding ESTIMATED $87.69 million at 3,682 theaters ($23,816 per theater).
Harry's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"We're thrilled because Saturday and Sunday exceeded the first one," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We went up with the first one 4 percent on Saturday and this one went up 14 percent on Saturday. So Saturday and Sunday become the largest PG grossing days in motion picture history. We have $33.6 million for Saturday, $24.5 million (estimated) for Sunday. Friday was $29.6 million."
Fellman pointed out that, "The only day we fell behind the original Potter was Friday (when the first film did $32.3 million). Saturday and Sunday exceeded the original Potter which did $33.5 million on Saturday and $24.4 million on Sunday). So we're only 3 percent off (for the weekend). Obviously, this has exceeded our expectations and we're very pleased with it.
"The film's reviews and exit interviews even exceeded the good notices and exit polls of the first one. I'd like to congratulate the director Chris Columbus and David Heyman, who produced the movie, for delivering a wonderful film and establishing an incredible franchise for us. And of course none of this is possible without the vision and the imagination of J.K. Rowling. And I'd also like to acknowledge the great marketing department headed by Dawn Taubin and the creative talent of Jim Fredrick, who developed our campaign."
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's R rated drama 8 Mile fell one notch to second place in its second week with a less lively ESTIMATED $21.33 million (-58%) at 2,496 theaters (+26 theaters; $8,545 per theater). 8 Mile, which only cost about $41 million to produce, has a cume of approximately $86.4 million and is heading for a nicely profitable domestic theatrical gross of about $130 million.
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated comedy sequel Santa Clause 2 dropped one rung to third place in its third week with a still funny ESTIMATED $15.1 million (-39%) at 3,346 theaters (-6 theaters; $4,502 per theater). Its cume is approximately $82.5 million, heading for $100 million-plus.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring slipped one peg to fourth place in its fifth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $11.0 million (-29%) at 2,882 theaters (-45 theaters; $3,828 per theater). Its cume is approximately $101.6 million, heading for $125 million.
Sony's Screen Gems division opened its PG-13 thriller Half Past Dead in fifth place to an unexciting ESTIMATED $8.2 million at 2,113 theaters ($3,881 per theater).
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding held on to sixth place in its 31st week, still showing terrific strength with an ESTIMATED $4.71 million (-19%) at 1,812 theaters (-183 theaters; $2,602 per theater). Its cume is approximately $199.6 million, heading for $215 million in domestic theaters.
Columbia's PG-13 rated comedy I Spy, which was fourth last week, tied for seventh place in its third week with a soft ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-54%) at 2,611 theaters (-571 theaters; $1,532 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.9 million.
Paramount and MTV Films' R rated comedy Jackass: The Movie, which wa s fifth last week, tied for seventh place in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-43%) at 2,413 theaters (-119 theaters; $1,670 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.5 million, heading for $65-70 million in domestic theaters.
Miramax's R rated drama Frida, which continued to expand in its fourth week, held on to ninth place with a hopeful ESTIMATED $2.89 million (+5%) at 519 theaters (+200 theaters; $5,568 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.6 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, down three notches in its eighth week with an okay ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-38%) at 1,469 theaters (-535 theaters; $1,604 per theater). Its cume is approximately $122.0 million, heading for $127 million in domestic theaters.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Samuel Goldwyn Films' R rated drama The Crime of Father Amaro to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.45 million at 43 theaters ($10,510 per theater).
Miramax's R rated drama Ararat kicked off to a hefty ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 5 theaters ($32,400 per theater).
Artisan Entertainment's PG rated documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown kicked off to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.13 million at 23 theaters ($5,434 per theater).
Directed by Paul Justman, it tells the story of the Funk Brothers, the legendary musicians who were Motown's back-up band on the tons of hit records the label produced in Detroit in the early '60s.
"It's a good start," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning. "Documentaries never start with big numbers--other than Bowling For Columbine. I guess that's the exception to the rule. When we had (the documentary) Buena Vista Social Club a few years ago we opened up to about $8,000 a screen at a similar number of theaters. So we're hoping that we can hold in like that film did week after week and, hopefully, the film will grow. We have 12 more theaters in 12 cities coming next week and then another 12 for Thanksgiving."
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend United Artists' R rated satiric documentary Bowling For Columbine released via MGM went wider in its fifth week with a still solid ESTIMATED $1.35 million (-13%) at 248 theaters (+26 theaters; $5,434 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.9 million.
Written, produced and directed by Michael Moore, it won the Special Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
"We broke the record this weekend for the highest grossing non-concert documentary of all time," a United Artists spokeswoman said Sunday morning. "The film that previously held that (record) was Hoop Dreams with $7.33 million. We're at six weeks in release and they reached that gross after 37 weeks."
Focus Features' PG-13 rated drama Far From Heaven went wider in its second week with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $0.93 million at 54 theaters (+48 theaters; $17,238 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.3 million.
"It's Todd Haynes' biggest film ever," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "Based on the business in the new markets, and particularly the results in the suburban markets, they were splendid. The suburbs were crazy! Voorhees, New Jersey's going to do about $21,000 for the weekend. These are very rare numbers for any art film like this. It puts it into a very special sphere.
"All in all, the consistency of its performance is breathtaking because it was very successful everywhere it opened. I think we can pretty much be certain that this coming weekend's augmentation into about 250 theaters--we'll in about 70 or 80 markets in total--should be a replica of what happened this weekend. We've got a really wonderful opportunity to play very strongly during the Thanksgiving holiday and, probably, beyond. I'm very excited because this is such a special film."
HBO Films and Newmarket Films' PG-13 rated comedy drama Real Women Have Curves added theaters in its fifth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.5 million (+2%) at 154 theaters (+8 theaters; $3,475 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.7 million.
Artisan Entertainment's R rated comedy Roger Dodger widened in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $0.2 million at 48 theaters (+14 theaters; $4,166 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.7 million.
"We're adding another 12 (runs) next weekend," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning. "At the end of the day, I think it'll be (a cume of) about $1.5 million."
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $168.43 million for the weekend, up about 7.79 percent from last year when they totaled $156.25 million.
Key films were up about 20.93 percent from the previous weekend this year when they totaled $139.27 million. Last year, Warner Bros.' opening week of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first with $90.29 million at 3,672 theaters ($24,590 per theater); and Buena Vista/ Disney's third week of Monsters, Inc. was second with $22.72 million at 3,461 theaters ($6,564 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $113.0 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $109.0 million.