Studio to release film a few hours earlier

With no fanfare, Disney has nudged forward the opening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” by a few hours to the evening of May 24.

Disney confirmed the move Monday, a day after Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ demolished the domestic opening weekend record in $151 million in North America — $15 million more than last July’s $135.6 million launch for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

As is often the case with tentpoles, the new Spidey record included early showings — in this case, screenings of at midnight and 3 a.m. on opening day, last Friday.

Disney said it began asking exhibitors last week to schedule the first screenings of “At World’s End” for 8 p.m. on May 24 — a Thursday that ushers in Memorial Day weekend. With anticipation sky-high for the third “Pirates,” Disney could conceivably regain bragging rights for the top opening frame.

Summer tentpole “Shrek the Third,” by contrast, isn’t budging from its opening on Friday, May 18, according to Jim Tharp, Paramount prexy of domestic distribution. The core “Shrek” aud will still be in school, giving Par less motive to go earlier.

“Shrek 2″ opened with $108 million after launching on a Wednesday three years ago in what is still the fifth-highest debut weekend on record.

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