LOS ANGELES — Moviegoers have turned out in full force for the final chapter of the “Star Wars” saga, which took in $158.5 million since its opening to shatter three-day and four-day box office records.
“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” grossed $124.7 million from Thursday to Saturday, according to studio estimates Sunday. That’s higher than the three-day record set by the first “Spider-Man,” which took in $114.8 million in May 2002 — though “Star Wars” had a lower Friday-Sunday take ($108.5 million) than the Tobey Maguire film.
“Revenge of the Sith” rang in a whopping $50 million on its opening Thursday, a single-day record boosted by eagerly anticipated midnight showings, and its total receipts since then beat the four-day $134.3 million opening of 2003’s “The Matrix Reloaded.” The George Lucas film has also grossed $144.7 million overseas for a total of $303 million worldwide.
“The reaction to the movie is absolutely spectacular,” said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution at Twentieth Century Fox.
Last weekend’s box office champ, “Monster-in-Law,” which marked Jane Fonda’s return to the big screen as Jennifer Lopez’s villainous prospective mother-in-law, slipped to a distant second with $14.4 million, a 38 percent drop. The Will Ferrell soccer comedy “Kicking & Screaming” took in $10.5 million to finish third.
Theater owners, studios and marketing partners were pleased to see “Star Wars” jump-start the summer movie season.
“It’s a very strong start to what will hopefully be a very strong summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
The Adam Sandler-Chris Rock remake of “The Longest Yard” and the animated zoo tale “Madagascar” open in wide release during Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the busiest movie viewing times of the year.
But “Star Wars” — which has sold an average of eight tickets per second online at Fandango.com — could remain at the top of the box office despite the competition.
“I think we have a shot to be No. 1 next week even with two giant pictures coming out,” Snyder said.
The third and final installment in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy chronicles the transformation of the heroic Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into the villainous Darth Vader. Studio exit surveys showed the audience — usually dominated by men for sci-fi films — was 58 percent male and 42 percent female, with nearly half the viewers under age 25, Snyder said.
“Revenge of the Sith” is the first “Star Wars” film to earn a PG-13 rating. The first five films were rated PG. Considered by critics to be the most entertaining of the prequel trilogy, it easily outperformed “Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and “Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” which grossed $64.8 million and $80 million, respectively, in their opening weekends.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
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