Twentieth Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revengeof the Sith zoomed to the top of the North American box office chart overthe weekend with a record-breaking estimated four-day gross of $158.5m. The film's three-day weekend estimated gross was $108.5m, the second biggest of all time.

After grossing a record $50m on its Thursday opening day,the final installment of the Star Wars series came out of the weekendwith a huge $158.5m total from more than 9,000 screens at 3,661 theatres, for aper-theatre average of $43,294.

The four-day tally beat the $134.2m record set by The Matrix Reloaded in 2003 (and the five-day record set by Spider-Man 2 last year).

Sith's three-day (Friday to Sunday) estimate was just enough totake the second biggest opening spot from Shrek 2, which grossedslightly more than $108m during the corresponding pre-Memorial Day weekend lastyear. It was not quite enough, however, to top Spider-Man's $114.8m three-day weekend total inearly May 2002.

Beating Spider-Man's three-day record became lesslikely after many moviegoers rushed to see Revenge of the Sith, which got mostly enthusiastic reviews, on itsmassive opening day. The Lucasfilm production, directed by George Lucas himselfwith Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen starring, had fanslining up for 2,900 showings at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday. Thosescreenings grossed $16.5m, beating the $8m first-showings record set by TheLord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.

Screenings continued through the early hours of Thursday andby the end of the day Sith had grossed just over $50m, enough to beatthe opening-day record of $42.5m set by The Matrix Reloaded in 2003 andthe single-day record of $44.7m set by Shrek 2 on its fourth day inrelease.

Sith's three-day gross easily topped the $80m figurefor Star Wars: Episode II in 2002 and the $64.8m for Episode I in1999. Those films went on to achieve final North American grosses of $302.2mand $431m respectively.

With no other wide new releases daring to take on the mightof the Star Wars finale, the rest of the North American top ten wasrelatively unchanged, though some holdovers fared better than others.

New Line's Monster-in-Law, last week's number one,dropped a fairly modest 38% to $14.4m from 3,424 theatres, for an average of$4,191 and second place on the chart.

Universal's Kicking & Screaming fell to thirdwith a 48% drop to $10.5m from 3,470, for an average of $3,034.

Lions Gate's Crash held on very well in its thirdweek of release, dropping only 22% to $5.5m from 1,905 (average - $2,887). Thesurprisingly strong drama has now grossed a total of $27.6m.

Focus' Unleashed and Fox's Kingdom of Heavenboth fell by 65% and Miramax's Mindhunters was down 53% from itsdisappointing opening last weekend.

Universal's The Interpreter maintained its strengthwith a drop of only 39% in its fifth week.

While Revenge of the Sith certainly gave the summerseason a much needed kick start, overall box office was still slightly downfrom last year. Combined gross for the top ten films was 4% off from thecorresponding weekend last year, when Shrek 2 opened and Troy andVan Helsing were among the holdovers.

Wide releases set for next weekend, the Memorial Day holidayweekend, are: Paramount's The Longest Yard, starring Adam Sandler, ChrisRock and Burt Reynolds; and DreamWorks' animated Madagascar, featuringthe voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Estimated Top Ten US May 20-22 2005

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimatedweekend gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of theSith (Fox) Fox Int'l $108.5m $158.5m

2 (1) Monster-in-Law (New Line) New Line$14.4m $44.2m

3 (2) Kicking & Screaming (Universal)UIP $10.5m $34m

4 (5) Crash (Lions Gate) Syndicate FilmsInt'l $5.5m $27.6m

5 (3) Unleashed (Rogue) EuropaCorp/UIP $3.8m$17.6m

6 (4) Kingdom of Heaven (Fox) Fox Int'l$3.4m $41m

7 (6) House of Wax (Warner Bros) Warner BrosInt'l/Village Roadshow $3.2m $27.8m

8 (8) The Interpreter (Universal) UIP $2.8m$65.3m

9 (7) TheHitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Buena Vista) Spyglass/BVI $2m $46.9m

10 (10) Mindhunters (Dimension)Intermedia/SPRI $909,000 $3.5m