'Crystal Skull' unearths $311.1 mil worldwide

The opening of Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” crystallized into a $311.1 million behemoth at the worldwide box office.

Performance marks a triumphant return for the classic action-adventure film franchise after an 19-year slumber, and for topliner Harrison Ford.

On the strength of baby boomers and their kids, “Crystal Skull” grossed an estimated $126 million domestically from 4,260 theaters over the long holiday weekend in the second-best Memorial Day bow. Last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($139.8 million) holds the record.

“Crystal Skull” opened Thursday; its five-day domestic haul clocked in at an estimated $151.1 million, according to Rentrak.

Overseas, where it began rolling out Wednesday, “Crystal Skull” grossed $160 million through Monday. The weekend international take (through Sunday) of $146 million reps the fifth best international opening of all time.

Elsewhere at the Memorial Day box office, the news was mixed.

Disney family sequel “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” declined a steep 58% in its second weekend. Pic grossed an estimated $28.6 million for the four-day weekend; cume is $96.7 million in its first 10 days.

“We’re really looking forward to kids getting out of school,” Disney prexy of domestic distribution Chuck Viane said.

Pic has performed slightly below expectations domestically, although the tentpole has yet to roll out in a major way overseas.

It’s not that “Crystal Skull” took up all the oxygen.

There was plenty of coin left over for Par’s box office hit “Iron Man,” which grossed $25.6 million over the long Memorial Day weekend for a cume of $257.8 million in its fourth frame. The Robert Downey Jr. superhero tentpole declined just 37% from the previous weekend to place No. 3.

Overall, Memorial Day box office was down roughly 16% from last year, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” led.

Paramount is in an enviable position, having released the summer’s first two successful tentpoles. As with “Crystal Skull,” it is the only distributor of “Iron Man,” which Marvel Entertainment fully financed and produced.

“Crystal Skull” debut gave both Spielberg and Paramount their best opening numbers after the helmer’s “War of the Worlds.” Paramount is distributing “Crystal Skull” for George Lucas’ Lucasfilm.

Despite a PG-13 rating, “Crystal Skull” played much more like a family film than a sequel. Sequels usually see their best numbers on the first day; in contrast, Spielberg’s film enjoyed a hearty Friday-to-Saturday bump.

Last year over Memorial Day, the third “Pirates” saw a Friday-to-Saturday drop of 14%. “Crystal Skull” saw its aud jump on Saturday by 19%.

Paramount and Lucas were deft in the marketing of “Crystal Skull.”

All along, there was speculation as to whether Ford was too old to play an action hero. For the most part, Par didn’t react to the buzz, letting the movie speak for itself. The film emerged from its worldwide premiere at Cannes unscathed, a plus in terms of publicity.

A whopping 66% of the domestic audience were 25 and older. Of that group, roughly 30% were parents with kids in tow. In terms of gender, the overall aud was split evenly.

“I think it worked so well because the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise is the favorite film franchise of a lot of adults,” Paramount prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution Rob Moore said.

“People were excited to see Harrison Ford in the role of ‘Indiana Jones.’ Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have consistently brought us entertainment that adults can come with their entire family to, and here’s another spectacular example,” Moore said.

Spielberg directed “Crystal Skull” from a script by David Koepp. Film also stars Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen and Ray Winstone.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher laffer “What Happens in Vegas” continued to thrive, serving as counterprogramming to the bigger summer tentpoles and coming in No. 4.

For the three days, “Vegas” dipped only 35% to an estimated $9 million from 3,188 runs. Four-day take was an estimated $11.1 million; cume is $56.4 million in the pic’s third frame.

Warner Bros. family film “Speed Racer” couldn’t find much traction over the Memorial Day frame. Placing No. 5 for the weekend, the movie declined 51% in its third frame to $4 million from 3,112 runs for the three days. Four-day gross was an estimated $5.2 million; cume is $37.4 million.

On the specialty side, Overture’s “The Visitor” made the top 10 chart for the second weekend in a row. Film placed No. 10 for the Memorial Day frame, grossing an estimated $917,000 from 270 runs for a cume of $4.6 million in its seventh frame.

It’s the first specialty film since awards season to make the top 10 chart.

First Look’s political satire “War, Inc.” scored the second-highest per-screen average of the weekend after “Crystal Skull,” opening in two locations. Film grossed an estimated $50,174 for a per-location average of $25,357 for the long four-day weekend.

Miramax holdover “Reprise” posted a per-screen average of $7,900 as it grossed an estimated $110,600 when expanding to 14 theaters; cume is $184,281 in the pic’s second weekend.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Children of Huang Shi” posted a four-day per-screen average of $7,751, opening on seven screens for an estimated gross of $54,254.

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