Harrison Ford's latest adventure uncovered a huge (but not record-breaking) opening, with $126 mil over the Memorial Day weekend and $151.1 mil for its first five days

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull enjoyed a huge opening at the box office this Memorial Day weekend, grossing $126 mil from Friday through Monday to easily take first place, according to early estimates.

That debut figure — the best of 2008 so far, and almost exactly in line with my prediction, what up — helped the fourth Indiana Jones film approach, but not surpass, several big box office benchmarks. Crystal Skull scored the second-best Memorial Day weekend ever (trailing only Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End‘s $139.9 mil) and the eighth-best four-day total of all time. In earning $25.1 mil last Thursday, the fedora flick scored the second-best opening-day take of the year (after Iron Man‘s $35.2 mil, which came on a Friday). And when you add that sum into the mix, the film’s five-day premiere was a huge $151.1 mil, No. 5 in that historical ranking.

Impressive, right? Totally. It’s impossible to see a movie earn more than $100 mil in one weekend and not applaud. Already, Indy 4 is poised to become the highest-grossing film in its franchise (Raiders of the Lost Ark is the current leader, with more than $200 mil, although, to be fair, ticket prices were drastically lower when it and the other two installments came out in the 1980s). This opening is by far a career best for star Harrison Ford (his previous champ: Air Force One‘s $37.1 mil) and director Steven Spielberg (The Lost World: Jurassic Park banked $72.1 mil on this weekend 11 years ago — a record at the time). And internationally, the movie has reportedly added $147 mil, giving it the fifth-top worldwide debut in history. That producer George Lucas, distributor Paramount, and everybody else were able to achieve all this with a long-dormant series is inspiring, no doubt.

But (you had to know that was coming)…Dr. Jones may need to really crack the whip if he’s going to avoid some trouble on his latest box-office adventure. For one thing, Crystal Skull brought in $101 mil over the standard three-day weekend (a total that could decrease once final numbers arrive on Tuesday). Sure, that’s the No. 10 bow of all time, but it’s almost identical to Iron Man‘s premiere ($98.6 mil) a few weeks ago. I mean, Iron Man and Indy 4 faring the same? Who’dathunk? Moreover, who would have imagined that filmgoers (and let’s be honest, most fans of these films are men) were going to like Iron Man better? Because that certainly seems to be the case: Robert Downey Jr’s superhero movie has hung on strong since its mammoth early-May opening thanks in part to great buzz, as evidenced by the CinemaScore grade of A that it earned from ticket buyers. So what was Indiana Jones 4‘s CinemaScore mark? Just a B. That’s very discouraging, and it means that the film could have some trouble sprouting legs long enough to make it the automatic $350 mil-plus smash that many anticipated it would be.

Amazingly enough, there were other movies at the multiplex this weekend. (I almost forgot!) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (No. 2) declined a startling 58 percent to earn a disappointing $28.6 mil over the four-day holiday; prognosticators hoped it would do more than $13 mil better. Iron Man (No. 3) continued its terrific run, dropping just 37 percent in its fourth weekend to bank $25.7 mil and bring its domestic total to $257.8 mil (No. 40 all time). What Happens in Vegas (No. 4) was next with $11.2 mil. A nice bit of counterprogramming opposite all this fantasy fare, the Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutcher romp has totaled $56.4 mil thus far. And Speed Racer rounded out the top five with $5.2 mil. Its three-week sum? Just $37.4 mil — or, about what Indy 4 earned on Saturday alone.

Overall, the cumulative box office of $215 mil was the worst for a Memorial Day span since 2003. Thus, this weekend was down nearly 16 percent from the same frame a year ago, when Pirates of the Caribbean 3 set that record I mentioned earlier. Oh yeah, last summer was a hot one, which reminds me: How’s the barbecuing coming on this holiday? Anybody wanna give a box office analyst a hot dog?

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Movie
  • 122 minutes