Film nets $4.5 mill at midnight US screenings

Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opened in France on Wednesday with $2.2 million, then scored an estimated $4.5 million in midnight shows in the U.S.

France, Belgium and Switzerland got the jump on the rest of the world with launches on Wednesday, the traditional day of release for those markets. “Crystal Skull” opens everywhere else Thursday and Friday except India (May 30) and Japan (June 21).

Paramount reported 240,000 admissions at 706 playdates for the first day in France — the best bow of the year for a Hollywood pic and trailing only local megahits “Asterix at the Olympic Games” and “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis.” In Belgium, “Crystal Skull” grossed $250,000 in its first day in release.

Pic received a warm welcome at its preem Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, where Harrison Ford and the other stars of the film worked the Croisette with Spielberg and “Crystal Skull” producer George Lucas.

Par didn’t issue any Stateside figures Thursday, but rivals calculated that widespread early screenings brought in $4 million-$5 million — signaling an opening day that could top $30 million from a saturation-level 4,260 playdates in the U.S.

Box office forecasters expect the film to whip up strong biz domestically and internationally, where Par has booked 12,000 playdates, over the long weekend.

The current record-holder for a domestic Memorial Day opener is last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which grossed $139.7 million for the four-day holiday. “At World’s End” also holds the record for international launch with $251 million.

(David Hayhurst and Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.)

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