''Clones'' takes the weekend's top spot -- But ''Spider-Man'' is still hanging strong, and Al Pacino's dark thriller is a sleeper hit, says Dave Karger
Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, ...
Credit: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: © & TM Lucasfilm, Ltd.

The combined power of Pacino, J. Lo, and a strong-willed horse couldn’t unseat summer’s superheroes from their perch, as ”Star Wars” and ”Spider-Man” fought off three new entries and held on to the top slots at the box office this weekend. Overall, the weekend stands as the biggest Memorial Day ever, with over $200 million in ticket sales.

As expected, ”Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” remained the No. 1 movie, grossing another $61.2 million over the four-day holiday weekend, according to studio estimates. Whether returning to enjoy the film again or seeing it for the first time, lightsaber freaks came out in large enough numbers to push ”Clones” past the $200 million mark on Monday, one day faster than ”The Phantom Menace.” On the other hand, ”Clones” fell off 41 percent from its debut, while ”Menace,” which also opened the weekend before Memorial Day, in 1999, slipped only 21 percent its second weekend. Are fans not as enthusiastic about ”Episode II” after all? Or is the drop simply a function of all the competition out there? (”Phantom Menace” pretty much had a month to itself three years ago.) Either way, the drop casts some doubt on whether ”Attack of the Clones” will definitely cross $400 million as ”Menace” did.

Certainly ”Star Wars” has taken a hit from ”Spider-Man,” which has proven the bigger crowd pleaser so far and stayed at No. 2 this weekend with another $36.5 million, bringing its four-week total to $334.3 million. Spidey is now the No. 6 top-grossing film of all time (wedged between ”Jurassic Park” and ”Forrest Gump”) and looks to be headed for the top three.

As for the weekend’s trio of new films, the Oscar-winner-laden mystery ”Insomnia,” starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank, emerged the victor with an impressive $26.2 million. Given its dark mood and audience-limiting R rating, many analysts expected ”Insomnia” to bring up the rear at the box office, but adult moviegoers were obviously looking for a film that makes them think after the recent run of superhero flicks. Audiences were certainly urged on by the film’s excellent reviews. And perhaps that rating was actually a blessing: ”Insomnia” is the only R-rated film in the top five.

Fourth place went to the animated film ”Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” which debuted with $23 million. Apparently families weren’t turned off by the serious subject matter (in the film, the titular horse is abused), and ”Spirit” continued a hot streak for family-friendly films. ”Spirit’s” opening, however, pales in comparison to the $46 million the computer-animated ”Ice Age” earned in its first weekend in March. Another sign that line-drawn animation is on its way out?

Rounding out the top five was Jennifer Lopez’s thriller ”Enough,” which managed a $17.5 million debut. Undeterred by the drama’s poor reviews, J. Lo fans still came out in full force to see their heroine kick some Billy Campbell butt. But even J. to tha L-O couldn’t have imagined that she’d be trumped not only by a red-suited superhero and Jedis, but also by Al Pacino and a HORSE, for God’s sake. Now that she’s conquered her screen husband, maybe Lopez’s character should use her martial arts training on some new foes.

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