"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second movie based on J.K. Rowling's best-selling books about a boy wizard, grossed an estimated $87.7 million in its first three days of release across North America, according to Warner Bros. Pictures.

The film ranks as the third-best opening of all time, behind the May release "Spider-Man" ($114.8 million) and Potter's 2001 predecessor, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ($90.3 million).

The first Harry Potter film, known as "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" outside the United States, went on to gross more than $900 million worldwide, ranking No. 2 on the all-time list behind "Titanic" (1997).

Exit polling and reviews were stronger for "Chamber of Secrets" than for its predecessor, said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. These indicate the movie could have more staying power at theaters, he said.

The studio is in pre-production on a third film, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," scheduled for release in 2004. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron is directing the new movie, stepping in for Chris Columbus, who directed the first two and will take a producer's role on the third.

Harry is played by 13-year-old English schoolboy Daniel Radcliffe. "Chamber of Secrets' " adult stars include Kenneth Branagh, Alan Rickman, Dame Maggie Smith and the late Richard Harris.

Last weekend's box office champ, the Eminem drama "8 Mile," slipped to No. 2 with $21.3 million, taking its 10-day total to $86.4 million.