"Indiana Jones" cracks whip at box office opening

LOS ANGELES Fri May 23, 2008 6:24pm EDT

Cast member Harrison Ford is interviewed as he arrives for a screening of the film ''Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'' by U.S. director Steven Spielberg in New York May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Cast member Harrison Ford is interviewed as he arrives for a screening of the film ''Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'' by U.S. director Steven Spielberg in New York May 20, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Paramount Pictures appears to have another hit on its hands, as the new "Indiana Jones" movie grossed $25 million from its first full day in North American theaters, independent box office analysts reported on Friday.

That tally ranks as the fourth highest-grossing Thursday debut on record and puts "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" on track to possibly match or overtake last year's "Pirates of the Caribbean" film as the biggest opening on a U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The last big release from Viacom Inc's Paramount, "Iron Man," opened three weeks ago with $98.6 million in U.S.-Canadian receipts its first Friday-through-Sunday frame -- a sum that the latest "Indiana Jones" film is expected to surpass.

Unlike the new "Indiana Jones" film, "Iron Man" was fully financed by Marvel Studios, which paid Paramount a flat fee to market and distribute its film. Thus, Paramount has much more at stake riding on the success of its latest release.

"Crystal Skull," directed by Steven Spielberg, is the fourth movie in the beloved and lucrative movie franchise that began in 1981 with "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and is the first to hit the big screen in 19 years.

Harrison Ford reprises his title role as the bullwhip-cracking archeologist who hates snakes, and reunites with actress Karen Allen, his co-star from the first adventure. In the new film, set during the 1950s Cold War era, he competes with an evil KGB agent played by Cate Blanchett to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.

Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, said the film's opening Thursday performance was strong enough to bode well for its commercial potential but not so strong as to diminish its weekend audience.

If its Friday-through-Monday box office tally crosses the $140 million mark, the film would exceed last year's Walt Disney Co's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" as the biggest North American opening yet for the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

"They have a strong shot at meeting or exceeding that Pirates of the Caribbean number last year," Dergarabedian told Reuters.

By comparison, the highest-grossing Thursday debut at the domestic box office was the $50 million raked in three years ago by "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," according to Box Office Mojo.

Reuters/Nielsen