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''Clones'' opens strong at No. 1

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Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, ...
Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: © & TM Lucasfilm, Ltd.

The insanely anticipated prequel-sequel ”Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” finally premiered last Thursday, taking in $30.1 million on its opening day and an additional $86.2 million over the weekend, resulting in a $116.3 four-day total, according to studio estimates. At first glance, it would appear that ”Clones”’ impressive opening figure just barely topped ”Spider-Man”’s $114.8 million debut from two weeks ago, correct? Not so fast.

”Spider-Man,” of course, was released on a Friday, so its record total was from its first three days only. In fairness, one should factor in Spidey’s $11 million Monday as well. Using that comparison, ”Spider-Man” made $126 million in its first four days, considerably more than ”Star Wars.” In terms of the Friday-Saturday-Sunday opening frame, ”Attack of the Clones” ranks as the third-best opening of all time, behind ”Spider-Man” and ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Still, ”Star Wars”’ achievement should not be belittled. It became the second-quickest film to cross the $100 million mark, and its $86.2 million weekend take is quite impressive considering the film was only playing on about 6,000 movie screens, 1,500 fewer than ”Spider-Man.” The big question now is: Which film will emerge victorious in the long run? At this point, that could go either way.

For its part, ”Spider-Man” had another fantastic weekend (the best third weekend ever, in case you really care about this stuff), grossing another $46 million and bringing its three-week total to $286.5 million. A $400 million-plus total seems definite (”Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” by comparison, topped out with $431 million).

Third place went to Richard Gere and Diane Lane’s adultery drama ”Unfaithful,” which fell only 27 percent from its $14.1 million debut to $10.3 million. Strong reviews and media attention to Lane certainly helped its case. Meanwhile, Hugh Grant’s new entry ”About a Boy” had to settle for No. 4 with $8.2 million, actually a good showing considering its limited 1,200-theater opening. And the dorky comedy ”The New Guy” completed the top five, falling a shockingly low 28 percent to $6.5 million. Hmmm…it’s about a young man coming of age and features a beautiful woman as well? People must’ve thought it was ”Star Wars.”

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