“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” hauled in $142.1 million to commandeer the record for best Memorial Day weekend debut, capping a huge month that puts Hollywood on track for record summer business.
Disney’s third “Pirates” adventure fell far short of breaking the best three-day opening ever, the $151.1 million haul for Sony’s “Spider-Man 3” three weeks earlier, according to studio estimates Monday.
Yet “At World’s End” cruised past last year’s record for best four-day Memorial Day opening, $122.9 million for “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
Compared to its predecessor in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, the $115.1 million that “At World’s End” drew from Friday to Sunday was well behind the $135.6 million premiere last summer of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” the second-biggest debut ever.
Chuck Viane, Disney’s head of distribution, said “At World’s End” had been a longshot to break top box-office records.
The movie runs two hours, 47 minutes, about 15 minutes longer than “Dead Man’s Chest” and almost half an hour longer than “Spider-Man 3.” That limited the number of screenings theaters could fit in.
“Dead Man’s Chest” and “Spider-Man 3” also opened amid lighter competition, while “At World’s End” was up against “Spider-Man 3” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third.”
“This is probably the most competitive Memorial weekend ever if not one of the most competitive weekends all time. It speaks volumes for how well we did,” Viane said. “Obviously, we fell short of the three-day record of ’Spidey.’ Everything’s really obvious and really good.”
Adding in $14 million from Thursday night previews before its official Friday release, “At World’s End” had taken in $156.1 million domestically.
The movie also grossed $245 million internationally since Wednesday, putting its worldwide total at $401 million in a matter of days.
The movie picks up where “Dead Man’s Chest” left off, with Johnny Depp’s wily pirate Jack Sparrow consigned to Davy Jones’ locker and his old associates embarking on a rescue mission.
“At World’s End” took over the top spot at the box office from “Shrek the Third,” which slipped to No. 2 with $69.1 million, raising its domestic total to $219.4 million. “Spider-Man 3” came in third with $18 million, putting its domestic total at $307.6 million.
The weekend’s only other new wide release, Lionsgate’s psychological thriller “Bug,” had a so-so opening, coming in at No. 4 with $4.2 million. Directed by William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”), the movie stars Ashley Judd as a waitress who takes up with a drifter and is drawn into his delusional conspiracy theories.
The combination of “At World’s End,” “Shrek the Third” and “Spider-Man 3” lifted Hollywood to a record Memorial Day weekend with overall revenues of $265 million, topping the previous high of $247 million set in 2004.
For the year, revenues are at $3.6 billion, 6.4 percent ahead of last year’s, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers. Factoring in higher ticket prices, movie admissions are up 2.6 percent.
The rise in movie attendance leaves the industry in good shape for summer, which has an unusually strong lineup that includes “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Transformers,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Simpsons Movie.”
“Summer ain’t over,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, who predicted Hollywood could bring in record summer revenue topping $4 billion. “You’ve got a record number of people in theaters seeing all the trailers and marketing materials for these upcoming films. I’ve never seen a summer so well positioned.”