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Noah Forrest
..Leonard Klady
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..Ray Pride
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..Michael Wilmington

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May 22, 2005

Star Wars: Reward of the Sith

Prequels aren't equals and this weekend one set records while another approached ignominy. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith commanded about two-thirds of the marketplace with an estimated gross of $105.5 million. Its tsunami like commercial force had competitors steering a wide path with the only other openers maintaining very limited exposure. Among the latter group, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist twisted into 110 theaters and eked out about $120,000.

The conclusion of the Star Wars saga that began in 1977 arrived at Midnight Thursday and immediately began to re-write the box office record book. It notched up the bar to $16.9 million for midnight screenings and established a new opening day milestone of $50 million. As the weekend advanced Episode III knocked down two, three and four day standards and every other potential barrier with the exception of the traditional weekend frame that remains in the web of Spider-Man 2.

Internationally the results were comparably potent. The picture bowed in 105 territories with the only notable absentees being Korea and Japan that open respectively next week and in July. The Sunday morning international estimate was $144.7 million with Sith breaking records in many countries but certainly among the top five debuts regardless of location. Great Britain led the charge with $26.8 million followed by France at $22.3 million. France proceeded the U.S. with a Wednesday opening with the vast majority of other overseas dates beginning on Thursday. Other top grossers included Germany at $18 million, Mexico posting $10.3 million; Spain at $9.9 million; Mexico with $6.6 million; Russia at $4.4 million, Italy, a Friday bow, close behind at $4.3 million and China adding $2.6 million to the larder. Domestic and international combined topped $300 million.

However, despite best efforts, even the biggest movie debut of all-time could not reverse the continuing decline of the audience that's been the top issue of 2005 in the domestic marketplace. The roughly $160 million weekend tally provided a potent 59% boost from the prior weekend but lagged 8% behind the comparable weekend of 2004 when Shrek 2 bowed to a virtual carbon copy $108 million, followed by Troy and Van Helsing.

In light of the stiff competition, Monster-in-Law's second weekend of $14.6 million and 37% drop looked sturdy while the near 50% plummet of Kicking and Screaming rated as typical. Virtually all of the continuing titles fell by more than 50% with the notable exception once again of Crash. The ensemble drama has had a virtual monopoly on adult crowds, resulting in a potent $27.6 million to date. That should bode well for the upcoming release of Cinderella Man.

The bow of Dominion, Paul Schrader's version of the early exploits of The Exorcist's Father Marin provided more curiosity than commercial clout. It barely registered even among devotees and its theatrical exposure appears to be no more than a flag for a future DVD combo package with Renny Harlin's version of the same material.

Among expansions in the niches, there was considerable heat for the non-fiction Mad Hot Ballroom that grossed roughly $140,000 as it went from two to 15 playdates and the Brit crime sage Layer Cake trebled its screen count to 30 and posted a $120,000 weekend.

The eclectic list of limited bows included a dull start for the French martial arts entry Les Fils du Vent in Quebec. It dribbled to near $35,000 from 37 engagements while the American indie Sex, Politics & Cocktails had a tepid $6,800 opening at two theaters. And virtually under the radar was a one-screen reissue of Deep Throat that didn't have swallow hard as it disposed a soft core $2,100.

- by Leonard Klady



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