'Clones' bow best ever for 'Star Wars' pix

20th Century Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” soared into the box office stratosphere this weekend, capturing an estimated $86.2 million.

Winning bow means George Lucas’ franchise empire is safe indeed, with “Attack of the Clones” grossing an estimated $116.3 million since its Thursday launch.

Boffo perf proves once again that the franchise is critic-proof, and it’s all but certain the latest “Star Wars” prequel will prove a major seasonal grosser heading into the lucrative Memorial Day sesh that marks the traditional start of the B.O. summer.

Sony’s “Spider-Man,” which grossed $114.8 million over three days after bowing May 3, finished No. 2 over the latest weekend with an estimated $46 million. Spidey has spun $286.5 million in its first 17 days of release.

Fox, which figures only as a distrib on Lucasfilm’s “Clones,” locked up sesh’s third place with New Regency co-production “Unfaithful.” Richard Gere-Diane Lane suspenser seduced an estimated $10.3 million in B.O. over its second weekend of release.

Femmes hug “Boy”

Universal’s bowing “About a Boy” finished fourth, with a solid $8.4 million for Working Title’s latest laffer adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel. Well-reviewed “Boy” lured mostly older femmes in a successful counterprogramming gambit.

Sony’s soph-sesh laffer “The New Guy” grossed an estimated $6.5 million in fifth place on a skimpy 28% drop.

In a limited bow, IDP/Fireworks’ “The Believer,” a true-story drama about a former Yeshiva student turned anti-Semite, grossed $28,000 from a four venues in L.A. and Gotham. “Believer” broadens to top-10 markets over the next two frames.

IFC Films laffer “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” expanded 28 theaters to a total 275 in grossing $1.2 million, for $4,192 per location and a $5.7 million cume. That pushed “Wedding” — whose producers include Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson — into the top 10 for the first time in its fifth weekend of platformed release.

ThinkFilms’ Ismael Merchant-helmed “Mystic Masseur” added 26 engagements this weekend for a total 28 and grossed $70,177. Repping $2,506 per playdate, perf stretches “Masseur” cume to $118,202.

The “Clones” bow marked a “Star Wars” franchise record. Perf outpaced the $64.8 million inaugural weekend of 1999′s “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” That first franchise prequel grossed $105.7 million over its first five days of release after bowing on a Wednesday.

“This performance is spectacular,” Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder enthused. “We weren’t out to set records (but) I’m delighted with the results.”

“Clones” grossed $30.1 million Thursday, $25.2 million Friday, $32.3 million Saturday and an estimated $28.7 million Sunday. Fox penciled in a strong Sunday gross in part because Canada marks the Victory Day holiday today, with students and many workers getting the day off.

Looking toward the looming Memorial Day sesh, Fox’s Snyder noted “Phantom Menace” managed to post a skimpy 21% Friday-Sunday drop in its second frame and expressed the hope that “Clones” will clone that perf. “Anything remotely in that range would be phenomenal,” he said.

“Spidey” still swinging

Over at Sony, execs were feeling more than good about the latest amazing “Spider-Man” feat of B.O. staying power. With only a 36% drop from its record soph sesh, the latest “Spidey” three-day gross marked the biggest-ever third weekend gross in history.

Tale of a young man infused with powers of a spider, pic pushed through $250 million and $275 million in record time on Friday and Sunday, respectively, hitting the first boffo benchmark in its 15th day and the second in its 17th. Speed bested previous 19- and 24-day marks by “Phantom Menace.”

“We hope to reach $300 million by next Friday and have the rest of the Memorial Day weekend to add onto that,” Sony marketing and distrib topper Jeff Blake said.

U plans to add at least 500 “Boy” playdates to the current 1,207 engagements over the holiday sesh.

“This weekend was great — we got out foot in the door and hope to build from there,” U spokesman Jeff Sakson said. “The fact that we were able to make over $8 million in a weekend completely dominated by this (‘Clones’) monolith is really something.”

“Boy” skewed 69% female, with 72% of patrons age 30 or older, Sakson said.

Three wide openers are set for the Memorial Day frame: DreamWorks’ tooner “Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron,” Sony’s Jennifer Lopez starrer “Enough” and the Warner Bros. suspenser “Insomnia.”

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