Battle For the Top: The record-setting return of "Star Wars" to movie theaters has set up a clash of the space titans: Sinister Darth Vader vs. lovable E.T. for the title of Hollywood's all-time biggest moneymaker.
Debuting with an estimated $36.2 million in weekend ticket sales, "Star Wars" jumped from fourth to second on the domestic list of top-grossing movies a putting it within reach of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial."
"It's pretty amazing. It's like it's doing it all over again, 20 years later," said George Lucas, whose space adventure was first released in 1977. "It's a story that reaches a chord with the audience and has become a real part of the culture." He added: "Another part of it is there might be a recognition that seeing movies on the big screen is much different than watching them on television or on video." Reissued with enhanced special effects and a few new scenes, the movie starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as space freedom fighters had the highest re-release debut weekend ever, boosting its cumulative gross to $359 million. "E.T.," Steven Spielberg's 1982 tale of a sweet alien befriended by a child, has grossed $399.8 million. Another Spielberg film, 1993's "Jurassic Park," was bumped to the third spot with $356.8 million. Lucas said he is deep into work enhancing the other films in the "Star Wars" saga, "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983). The studio that co-produced and released "Star Wars," 20th Century Fox, also was basking in the film's success and brushing off questions about whether the film could sustain the pace next weekend. "Everybody is saying how much is it going to fall, because movies inevitably fall the second week," said Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th C entury Fox Domestic Film Group. "But what do you compare it to? It's a 20-year-old movie. Nobody knows." Sherak suggested that moviegoers could also turn out in substantial numbers for the upcoming reissue of the rest of the trilogy. "This is different than with other movies: It's a serial. And how often do moviegoers get to see the next chapter within three weeks? …