Payback for the Sith has meant a real payday at the box office.
“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” beat two strong newcomers to remain the top movie with $70.75 million over the long Memorial Day weekend, though Hollywood again failed to climb out of a prolonged revenue decline.
Debuting in second place was the animated adventure “Madagascar” with $61 million, while Adam Sandler’s football remake “The Longest Yard” opened a close third with $60 million, according to studio estimates.
Despite the two big debuts and a strong hold for “Revenge of the Sith” in its second weekend, theatrical receipts overall were down for the 14th straight weekend compared with last year.
The top 12 movies grossed $225.5 million, an impressive four-day haul but still 5.5 percent behind last year’s record Memorial Day weekend, when “Shrek 2” and “The Day After Tomorrow” alone combined for $181 million.
“On the one hand, yeah, 14 weeks, that’s a terrible slump,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “But I’m optimistic, because this weekend proves you can still get a heck of a lot of people in theaters with the right movies.
The final installment of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” saga grossed $271.2 million domestically in its first 12 days, putting it on pace to soar beyond the $310 million total for its predecessor, “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”
“Revenge of the Sith” may be on track to approach the $431 million domestic haul of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox.
As with “Titanic,” the modern box-office champ that brought young girls back to the theater to see it again and again, “Revenge of the Sith” is drawing strong repeat business among young males.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who already have seen this picture four and five times,” Snyder said.
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