Strong field drives record $205 mil weekend

“Stars Wars: Episode II” cloned a boffo soph sesh with an estimated $61.2 million that topped a crush of box office competish over a Memorial Day weekend that registered historic highs.

There were no real casualties in the holiday-lengthened frame, as Sony phenom “Spider-Man” lured another $36.5 million into its B.O. web in second place. And Warner Bros. suspenser “Insomnia” finished highest among three wide openers with an estimated $26.2 million in third place.

DreamWorks’ family toon “Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron” rode to fourth place with an estimated $23 million debut, and Sony’s Jennifer Lopez starrer “Enough” opened well enough for fifth with $17.5 million.

Universal expanded the run for Hugh Grant starrer “About a Boy” by 45% and grabbed sixth place with an estimated $10 million over laffer’s soph sesh.

Industrywide, frame proved the biggest B.O. weekend of all time with an estimated $205 million in total grosses — 10% ahead of last year’s record Memorial Day sesh.

Year-to-date, 2002 is 22% of the same portion of last year with a total $3.45 billion, according to data from B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

B.O. bonanza year

“It’s the year of the box office bonanza,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks enthused.

A big reason for that surge is distribs’ success in targeting a range of moviegoing tastes, he added.

Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman agreed, saying the solid bow of “Insomnia” shows adult-skewing pics can do well even in a market dominated by popcorn blockbusters like “Clones” and “Spidey.”

“It just confirms the opportunity to counter-program,” Fellman observed.

Some 53% of “Insomnia” patrons were 30 or older, with auds evenly comprised of men and women. Warners will split pic B.O. with co-prod partner Alcon Entertainment.

“This is so significant for the company,” Alcon co-prexy Andrew Kosove said. “The cash flow is going to let us fund our next five or six pictures comfortably, and that’s humongous for us.”

Big bow for Pacino

Bow was biggest in Pacino’s career, besting a three-day opening of $22.5 million for 1990′s “Dick Tracy.”

As expected, young girls were most in the “Spirit” this weekend. But distrib topper Jim Tharp said favorable exit interviews has DreamWorks hoping pricey trad-animated feature can climb as high as $100 million domestically by sustaining broad family support.

“It’s a good opening and should hold extremely well,” Tharp said. “There’s really no other family film in the market for the next few weeks.”

Warners’ family laffer “Scooby-Doo” opens June 14 and Disney bows trad-tooner “Lilo & Stitch” on June 21.

Sony marketing and distrib boss Jeff Blake hopes young femme fan base of topliner Lopez will be enough to push “Enough” well into profitability. Pic was produced for an estimated $38 million.

“There was a tremendous response (in exit polling), especially from the female audience,” Blake said. “It really hit a chord.”

Michael Apted-helmed pic casts Lopez as an abused wife intent on defending herself and her daughter.

‘Clones’ soars

The solid soph sesh for Twentieth Century Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode II — Revenge of the Clones” — built on a modest 41% drop from the previous weekend — meant the latest franchise installment soared past the $200 million mark quicker than its predecessor “Star Wars” prequel. “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” took 13 days to reach that mark, while “Clones” grossed an estimated $202.5 million through Sunday — just its 12th day of release.

Spidey, which leaped past $200 million in a record nine days two frames ago, also bested “Phantom Menace” in ascending to $300 million by its 22nd day Friday. “Menace” took 28 days to get to that mark.

Spidey, which raised its theater count 7% to a record 3,876 this weekend, boasts an estimated cume of $334.3 through Sunday.

Among limited openers this weekend, Miramax’s film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” earned $470,000 from 38 theaters for a stolid $12,368 per venue. Cume for laffer — which unspooled in four L.A. and Gotham locations Wednesday — is $191,000, with “Earnest” earmarked for 125 playdates in 40 markets Friday.

‘Conversations’ talks

Sony Pictures Classics opened New York drama “13 Conversations About One Thing” in nine Gotham and L.A. locations and grossed $98,061, or $10,895 per site. “Conversations” will expand throughout June.

And United Artists bowed Roman Coppola’s “CQ” in seven L.A. and Gotham theaters, grossing an estimated $56,000, or $7,964 per venue. Film-within-a-film drama broadens to additional markets next weekend.

Magnolia doubled the number of L.A. and Gotham engagements for drama “Late Marriage” in its soph sesh and grossed $67,000, or $11,176 per playdate. “Marriage,” which sports a $116,000 cume, will widen its run throughout the next several weeks.

Looking to next weekend, the recently elastic B.O. marketplace will try to stretch a bit further to shoe-horn in two wide openers. Paramount bows thriller “The Sum of All Fears,” the latest adaptation of a Tom Clancy bestseller, and U unspools blaxploitation spoof “Undercover Brother.”

But the upcoming frame actually offers the fewest number of debutantes for awhile. Three or more wide releases are skedded to bow over the following three weeks.

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