‘Harry Potter’ beats ‘Star Wars’ in first weekend gross

By Simon Havery, The Associated Press
Saturday May 18, 2002

LOS ANGELES — “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” took in more money Thursday than any weekday release in movie history but failed to beat the best single-day box office take of all time, set this month by high-flying “Spider-Man.” 

“Star Wars” grossed $30.1 million in ticket sales at 3,161 screens nationwide on its first day, according to estimates by 20th Century Fox. 

In comparison, “Spider-Man” pulled in a record $39.3 million on its first day. That movie opened on a Friday, considered a weekend day at the box office. 

“Spider-Man” collected $43.7 million during its second day, playing at 3,615 theaters. 

“We weren’t looking to set records,” said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which released “Attack of the Clones.” 

Fox executives waved off comparisons to “Spider-Man” ahead of the opening, noting that they and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas were limiting the release to theaters with digital sound. 

Nevertheless, the film managed to post the sixth largest single-day gross ever, behind leaders “Spider-Man” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” 

“This was the best opening for any ’Star Wars’ film. I’m expecting a great run out of it,” Snyder said. 

“Clones” topped the single-day record of $28.5 million set three years ago by “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” on its opening day. That record had stood until November 2001 when “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” grossed $32.3 million on opening day and $33.5 million its second day. 

The latest chapter of the “Star Wars” saga brings back Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala, picking up the story 10 years after the action of “Phantom Menace.” 

The main cast addition is Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker — the future Darth Vader — now a Jedi knight in training. 

The spectacular grosses of both “Attack of the Clones” and “Spider-Man” signal a good summer for the movie industry, predicted Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. 

“I think we’re going to see the biggest summer ever,” he said. “I don’t think the momentum is going to die.” 

Anticipated blockbusters this summer include Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi thriller “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise, and the adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s “The Bourne Identity,” starring Matt Damon. 

“Moviegoers still want to be first on the block to see a film. It’s the water-cooler factor, the schoolyard factor. They want to be part of America’s pop culture,” Dergarabedian said.