Move over Darth Vader. Captain Jack Sparrow is king for a day.
Preliminary estimates released by Disney show that “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” earned $55.5 million on Friday, which would set the record for the largest one-day take at the box office. The previous record was set last year by “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” which grossed about $50 million.
The movie was shown on 4,133 screens, beginning at midnight Friday. Only 2004’s “Shrek 2” and “Spider-Man 2” debuted on more screens.
Disney also received reports of continuous sellouts and requests to add more screens at multiplexes.
“We’re obviously thrilled beyond belief. Anytime you break an industry record ... the word ecstatic comes to mind,” said Chuck Viane, head of distribution at Disney.
The swashbuckling sequel is on pace to eclipse the three-day, box-office record held by “Spider-Man” in 2002 with $114.8 million.
“This goes a long way of dispelling the notion that people don’t want to go to movies anymore,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-officer tracker Exhibitor Relations. “People aren’t waiting for the DVD on this one. They are going out to see it.”
Hollywood has been mired in a filmmaking slump. Last year audiences stayed away from such offerings as the action bombs “Stealth” and “The Island,” and the remakes “House of Wax” and “The Bad News Bears.”
Revenues this year to date are at $4.6 billion, 5 percent ahead of last year’s disappointing take, though factoring in higher ticket prices, attendance is up just 1.7 percent.
At the current pace, 2006 ticket sales would come in slightly below Hollywood’s average of 1.46 billion a year over the last decade.
But Dergarabedian said those fortunes could change with “Pirates.”
“It’s on track to make $120 million or more this weekend,” he said. “It’s a monumental number. It’s a great place for the industry to be right now.”
Preliminary three-day box-office estimates were to be released Sunday, with final figures expected Monday.