LOS ANGELES Indiana Jones unearthed box office gold at domestic theaters with a performance that puts the film on track to become the second biggest Memorial Day movie opening ever, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The fourth installment of the whip-cracking professor's exploits, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," grossed an estimated $101 million from Friday to Sunday, plus $25 million from its opening Thursday, distributor Paramount Pictures said. The company expects it to earn another $25 million on Monday.
That would put it behind only "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which had a Friday-through-Monday total of $139.8 million, in the pantheon of Memorial Day weekend blockbusters.
Including Thursday's receipts, "Indiana Jones" was expected to collect $151 million over five days, slightly behind "Pirates," which took in $153 million with a partial Thursday included.
"'Indiana Jones' did incredibly well for a film that comes 19 years after the previous installment," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC.
The adventure flick received a lackluster reception from critics at the Cannes Film Festival, but audiences thought otherwise.
Box office estimates grew from $25 million on its opening Thursday through $37 million on Saturday, suggesting strong word of mouth, Dergarabedian said.
"This is the definition of a summer movie from two of the architects of the summer movie season George Lucas and Steven Spielberg," he said. "These guys have it down to a science and audiences want to go along for that ride."
The first three Indy movies took in $1.2 billion worldwide.
Disney's action sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," slipped to second place with $23 million, for a total of $91.1 million over two weeks. The company expected the movie to continue to play well as school lets out.
"Once you start getting the mass number of kids out of school, it turns into some serious money," said Chuck Viane, president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Marvel Studios' "Iron Man" clinched another $20.1 million, bringing its domestic total to $252.3 million. A sequel is set for release in 2010.
The 20th Century Fox comedy, "What Happens in Vegas," continued to roll with $9 million in its third week, for a total of $54.2 million.
Fox senior vice president Bert Livingstone said high gas prices were encouraging people to see movies rather than take long trips away from home.
"This is the last great bargain," Livingstone said.
But movie receipts were about 16 percent smaller than last year's Memorial Day weekend, and revenue for the year to date is down nearly 4 percent at $3.3 billion, with attendance off nearly 7 percent.
By this time last year, there were seven movies that grossed over $100 million: "Pirates," "Shrek the Third," "Spider-Man 3," "300," "Wild Hogs," "Blades of Glory" and "Ghost Rider," according to Media By Numbers. This year, there are only three: "Iron Man," "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" and "Indiana Jones."
"It's no wonder that we're down in terms of revenues and attendance," Dergarabedian said. "You don't get out of a deficit like this overnight."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Tuesday.
1. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," $101 million.
2. "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," $23 million.
3. "Iron Man," $20.1 million.
4. "What Happens in Vegas," $9 million.
5. "Speed Racer," $4 million.
6. "Made of Honor," $3.4 million.
7. "Baby Mama," $3.3 million.
8. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," $1.7 million.
9. "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," $900,000.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; DreamWorks, Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Marvel Studios is a division of Marvel Entertainment Inc.