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‘Pirates’ sails into record books

'Spider-Man 3' still on top

Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” sailed into the record books as the biggest extended Memorial Day weekend opening ever, rowing to $142 million over four days.

But the buccaneers’ hefty doubloon count didn’t quite live up to the hype heading into the weekend, or keep pace with the money-spinning of Sony’s “Spider-Man 3,” which was released earlier in the month and posted the biggest three-day opening of all time domestically: $151.1 million.

Added international booty did make for a nifty haul for Johnny Depp and company, as foreign grosses remain key for studio tentpoles. Over six days in release, “Pirates” global cume hit $401 million, which surpassed the $382 million that Spidey caught in his web over six days.

The weekend tally for “Pirates” — which at 4,362 sites saw the widest ever release at North American theaters — shot up to $156 million, according to Disney estimates, with the inclusion of limited Thursday-night screenings, which added $14 million to the pic’s war chest, and the Monday holiday take.

Previous pic in the “Pirates” series, “Dead Man’s Chest,” amassed a three-day take of $135.6 million in its July bow last year.

The extended weekend haul of “At World’s End,” however, handily surpassed the $122.8 million that Fox’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” notched last year when it broke the Memorial Day record.

B.O. charts headed by “Pirates” –fellow blockbusters “Shrek the Third” and “Spider-Man 3” rounded out the top three — helped ticket sales spike dramatically overall: Top 10 pics combined, according to Rentrak, took in $262.4 million over four days vs. $186.9 million a year ago, when “X-Men” was tops.

Thanks to “Pirates,” the Memorial Day frame was the biggest ever. “Spider-Man,” “Shrek” and “Pirates” set a heated summer pace, and other high-potential pics — the latest in the “Harry Potter,” “Ocean’s” and “Bourne” franchises among them — will hit theaters in the coming weeks.

While “Pirates” set the domestic Memorial Day weekend record, the pic wasn’t able to blow past some of the records set earlier this month by Sony’s “Spider-Man 3.” Biggest day for “Pirates” over the frame was its first full run of shows, on Friday, with about $43 million. That one-day mark didn’t come close to the $59.8 million for “Spider-Man 3.”

Disney distribution head Chuck Viane said auds tend to find pics that open over Memorial Day weekend more gradually, as moviegoers have extra days to hit multiplexes. “People take their time (over a holiday weekend),” he said. “They don’t have to run out opening day.”

Including Thursday shows, the “Pirates” per-theater average was $35,776; Spidey’s was $35,540 over three days in its opening weekend three weeks earlier.

In its second frame, DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third” followed at No. 2, passing the $219 million mark by raking in another $69 million off 4,172. Pic dropped just 43% in its second weekend.

“Spider-Man 3” landed the No. 3 spot, adding $18 million over the weekend to run its domestic cume to $307.6 million. Pic’s theater count was down to 3,723.

With the franchises ruling the weekend, it was a free-for-all on the rest of the B.O. chart, with indie pics getting a clear whack as counterprogrammers and some musty holdovers coming back for more dough.

Lionsgate launched William Friedkin’s “Bug,” starring Ashley Judd, in 1,661 locations, trapping $4.2 million and the No. 4 slot.

Fox Searchlight expanded its Sundance acquisition “Waitress” to 510 theaters and carved out the No. 5 slot on the chart with $4 million, serving up a total of $6.5 million after four weeks in platform release.

Searchlight, which has staked out this summer as a time to counterprogram, also continues to find success with “Once,” which played to a per-screen average of $21,650 over the Memorial Day frame in 20 theaters.

Genre label Fox Atomic, meanwhile, saw added success with zombie pic “28 Weeks Later,” which has been paying in the middle of the charts against the big boys. Pic added $3.3 million over the holiday weekend to run up a three-week cume of $24.4 million.

Some holdover pics also eked out some extra dough to hold a slot on the top 10 chart.

Paramount and DreamWorks’ “Disturbia” added $2.4 million to raise its cume to $74.9 million after seven weeks.

And Disney’s middle-age laffer “Wild Hogs” roared back into the top 10 after 13 weeks in release. On just 426 screens, it added $1.4 million to lift cume to $163.2 million.

New Line legal thriller “Fracture,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, also gobbled up some of the scraps not eaten by the heavyweights. Pic remained in the top 10 after six frames, adding $1.6 million for a cume of $37.1 million.

Universal’s “Georgia Rule” played to eighth place and $2.3 million as star Lindsay Lohan made headlines for her offscreen antics over the weekend. Pic has taken in $16.8 million after three weekends.

In limited release, Sony Classics’ “Angel-A” flew to $37,730 on seven screens over four days, and its “Paprika” spiced up $45,594 off two.

ThinkFilm’s “The Wendell Baker Story,” helmed by Luke Wilson, took in just $32,801 in its second frame off 15 screens to bring its cume to $100,758.

When Spidey’s opening set B.O. records, Sony brass said they’d make as many sequels as they could for the franchise. But it remains to be seen if the “Pirates” crewwill be boarding their ship again. Disney has not mentioned any plans to extend the property yet.

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