'Pirates' in shipshape form with $139.8 mil

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Thanks largely to the one-two-three punch from Buena Vista's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Paramount's "Shrek the Third" from DreamWorks Animation and Sony's friendly neighborhood "Spider-Man 3," the four-day Memorial Day weekend was one for the record books. The total boxoffice for the 109 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter was $255.3 million -- marking the biggest weekend in boxoffice history.

Early estimates for the weekend overall were slightly higher than what the actual turned out to be as most observers pegged the total for the four-day frame nearer the $265 million level. The new boxoffice benchmark was a mild 2% higher than the industry's previous biggest-grossing session of $249.3 million, which occurred during a rare five-day post-Christmas/New Year's weekend running from Dec. 28, 2001-Jan. 1, 2002, when the holiday fell on a Tuesday. New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" was the top film with $57 million.

The next-largest weekend was the four-day Memorial Day session in 2004 with $247.6 million, when "Shrek 2" topped the charts with $95.6 million and 20th Century Fox's "The Day After Tomorrow" debuted with $85.8 million in second place. This year's holiday weekend gross was up 6% from last year's Memorial Day tally of $241.8 million.

As expected, by weekend's end, "At World's End" was sitting in the top spot at the boxoffice in North America, making port with a four-day holiday gross of $139.8 million. Including the $13.2 million from Thursday night previews that began at 8 p.m., the total to date for the latest "Pirates" yarn from the Walt Disney Co. is a massive $153 million.

The opening weekend for the Johnny Depp starrer will go down as the second-biggest opening weekend of all time, behind the $151.1 million bow of "Spider-Man 3" and ahead of the $135.6 million debut of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Both "Spider-Man 3" and the "Dead Man's Chest" opened during a nonholiday three-day weekend.

Director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott worked on all three "Pirates" films in the same capacity. The PG-13 adventure, co-starring Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, opened in a record 4,362 venues and should hold up pretty nicely in the weeks ahead if exit polls are any indication.

According to CinemaScore, a sterling 90% of those polled gave "At World's End" a positive score. The high seas-set picture hit all four quadrants in the demographic world -- which is every film's dream demo -- and the percentage comparison between the quadrants was divided fairly evenly. The combined high score and wide demo reach should give "At World's End" some legs at the boxoffice.

"Shrek the Third" was in the second spot with $67 million from 4,172 locations. The not-so-jolly green ogre held up well in its sophomore frame and has collected a stout $217.4 million in 11 days. The PG comedy has the animated audience pretty much to itself for at least one more weekend, and then Sony's CG-animated "Surf's Up" hits theaters June 8.

"Spider-Man 3" took in $18.1 million to snag the third slot in its fourth weekend in theaters. The Tobey Maguire starrer is still swinging strongly at the boxoffice, generating a noteworthy $307.8 million during its first 25 days in release.

Lionsgate's "Bug" was the weekend's only other wide release. In a counterprogramming move, the R-rated thriller debuted in 1,661 locales and placed fourth with a $4 million gross, averaging a weak $2,408 per theater. William Friedkin directed "Bug," based on the off-Broadway play by Tracy Letts. Word-of-mouth doesn't seem likely to help this picture in the weeks ahead as the film was rated favorably in exit polls by a dismal 19% of moviegoers, according to CinemaScore.

A bright spot among limited releases was Fox Searchlight's "Waitress," which jumped into the fifth slot with $4 million. The comedy was in 501 theaters, up 394 from the previous weekend, and averaged $7,984 per theater. Its cume stands at $6.5 million.
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