After grossing $30.1 million on opening day Thursday, "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" collected $86.15 million Friday to Sunday, the third-highest debut ever for a three-day weekend, behind "Spider-Man" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
"Attack of the Clones" did not approach box-office records set two weeks ago by "Spider-Man," which debuted with $114.8 million in three days. But "Episode II" had a faster start than its 1999 predecessor, "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace," which opened on a Wednesday and took five days to reach $105 million.
"We're delighted with this performance," said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which releases the "Star Wars" movies. "`Star Wars' opened with `Spider-Man' in the marketplace, something that's extraordinarily popular. It's another 800-pound gorilla, and we still opened to spectacular numbers."
Playing in 3,161 theaters, "Attack of the Clones" averaged a whopping $27,254. The film opened in about 450 fewer theaters than "Spider-Man" because "Star Wars" creator George Lucas was choosy about locations, insisting on top-of-the-line cinemas with digital sound.
It's the same strategy applied to "Phantom Menace," which did not break opening-weekend records but had more staying power than most blockbusters, climbing to $431 million, No. 4 on the all-time list.
"No apologies need to be made for an opening this big," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "This is the fifth installment of `Star Wars,' and for this film to do so well these many years later and still be this relevant, it's a testament to the power of Lucas' vision and the allure it has for audiences."
Only one major movie opened against "Attack of the Clones," the Hugh Grant romance "About a Boy," which came in at No. 4 with $8.4 million in 1,207 theaters for a healthy $6,959 average.
"Spider-Man" slipped to No. 2 in its third weekend but held up well with $46 million, bringing its total to $286.5 million in 17 days. The film already ranks 14th on the all-time domestic box-office chart, just behind "The Empire Strikes Back."
By next weekend, "Spider-Man" should be pushing the top five on its way to $400 million and beyond.
"I think we're in both a sprint and a marathon," said Jeff Blake, head of distribution and marketing for Sony, which released "Spider-Man." "We're breaking records very quickly, but we also seem to be running a long way, as well."
The latest record for "Spider-Man" was hitting $250 million on Friday, its 15th day. "The Phantom Menace" had been the fastest film to cross that mark, in 19 days.
Powered by "Star Wars" and "Spider-Man," the top 12 films grossed $170 million, up 77 percent from the same weekend a year ago.
With those two movies likely to remain strong and a solid crop of newcomers arriving Friday, Hollywood is likely to beat the Memorial Day box-office record of $185.3 million set last year, Dergarabedian said.
Big films opening next weekend are the animated tale "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" and thrillers starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams ("Insomnia") and Jennifer Lopez ("Enough").
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.