Earning a whopping $51.2 million in only its first three days, Eminem’s film debut, “8 Mile,” dominated the weekend box office, besting last week’s champ, Disney’s “The Santa Clause 2.”

The opening weekend of “8 Mile” is the second highest ever for an R rated movie, behind last year’s “Hannibal,” which made $58 million. While the Lector thriller was anticipated as a blockbuster release, “8 Mile” lacked the characteristics of a guaranteed smash hit and the results were much higher than the $25 million box office analysts expected.

“8 Mile,” directed by Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”), has already made money for its distributor Univerasl, as the production cost of the film was a scant $41 million. The film is poised to easily pass the $100 million mark by the month’s end, and should finish somewhere between $150-175 million.

Earlier this year, the Detroit rapper released his third album, The Eminem Show, which has sold over 7 million copies to date. By comparison, an estimated 8 million people went to see the artist in his first acting role in “8 Mile.”

The transition from music to film is a difficult change for many artists, but Eminem seems poised to take over the film industry after conquering the music business. Last year, Mariah Carey flirted with an acting career in “Glitter,” but the film tanked and continued a series of emotional problems for the “actress.” Teen pop diva Britney Spears fared a little better with her film debut, “Crossroads,” but the ticket sales ($37 million in total) couldn’t match the album sales.

Eminem can thank much of the success of the film to Hanson, who has quickly become one of the most acclaimed directors in Hollywood today. “8 Mile” has received overwhelming praise from critics here and abroad, but the public audience seems to be the group most impressed with Em’s debut.

Slim Shady’s spot at the top won’t last long, as Friday marks the release of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” the second installment based on the mecha-popular book series. The first “Harry Potter” film made $90 million in its opening frame.

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