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'Menace' still in full Force at American box offices

LOS ANGELES -- The Force will clearly be with moviegoers for several more months at the nation's multiplexes, where it continues to dominate business and break records.

"Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" showed impressive staying power with an amazing $64.8 million at 3,023 theaters during the Friday through Memorial Day holiday weekend, pushing its 13-day total to $205 million, studio sources said Monday.The four-day total, which matched last weekend's Friday to Sunday take, made "Phantom Menace" the 24th highest domestic grosser ever as it edged past "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

"These are great numbers," declared Tom Sherak, 20th Century Fox's distribution chief. "There was beautiful weather everywhere, so we think we did very well this weekend."

Sherak said the audiences have been 59 percent male with many children being accompanied by their fathers. He added it's likely that many adults have delayed seeing "Phantom Menace," the fourth installment in George Lucas' saga, until the lines become shorter.

Movie analyst Arthur Rockwell agreed that "Phantom Menace" should continue to perform well, noting that many theaters have booked the movie for eight weeks. "I think there are a lot of moviegoers who want to see it but feel like there's still no rush," he said. "The word of mouth has been very good, and theater owners who booked it are breathing a sigh of relief."

"Phantom Menace" has a clear shot at becoming one of the top three movies ever. The $600.8 million domestic gross of "Titanic" is likely to remain out of reach but the $460.9 million taken in by the original "Star Wars" and the $399.8 million for "E.T. -- The Extraterrestrial" could be topped.

On Monday, "Phantom Menace" broke the 3-year-old record set by "Independence Day" for fewest days needed to pass $200 million by eight days.