The third installment in the Walt Disney Co. franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," hauled in $112.5 million from Friday to Sunday, well below last summer's $135.6 million opening weekend for its predecessor, "Dead Man's Chest."
"At World's End" had the fifth-biggest three-day opening ever, with this month's "Spider-Man 3" ($151.1 million) and "Shrek the Third" ($121.6 million) both outperforming it.
Adding in $14 million from Thursday night preview screenings, "At World's End" had taken in $126.5 million domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Thursday night screenings skewed the weekend figures for "At World's End," which likely would have done much of that business on Friday without those previews.
"At World's End" took in an additional $205.5 million internationally since it began rolling out overseas Wednesday, putting its worldwide total at $332 million.
Though it missed out on key box-office records, "At World's End" is on course to surpass last year's "X-Men: The Last Stand," which had the best four-day Memorial Day weekend debut with $122.9 million.
"We will go flying by that," said Chuck Viane, Disney head of distribution.
After 2003's acclaimed "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," reviews were mixed at best for both sequels.
Critics found the second and third movies more akin to the Disney theme-park attraction on which the franchise is based, cinematic thrill rides whose huge visual set pieces supplanted much of the charm of the first film, which earned Johnny Depp an Academy Award nomination as boozy buccaneer Jack Sparrow.
Released just 10 months after "Dead Man's Chest," the new movie picks up from that cliffhanger as Sparrow's friends and foes (Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush) set sail to rescue him from Davy Jones' locker.
It remains to be seen how well "At World's End" will measure up in the long run to "Curse of the Black Pearl," which topped out at $305 million, and "Dead Man's Chest," last year's biggest hit with $423 million.
"Fifth-biggest opening of all time. There's really nothing to complain about here," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "These numbers tell us that people love to see these `Pirates' movies, regardless of reviews, regardless of any other factors."
With a big first weekend behind it, "At World's End" appears positioned to avoid the fate of some third installments such as "Jurassic Park III" and "The Matrix Revolutions," whose returns fell far short of their predecessors.
The new "Pirates" poached the box-office crown from DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek the Third," whose No. 1 debut a week earlier was a record opening for an animated film. "Shrek the Third" slipped to second place with $51 million, pushing its domestic total just beyond $200 million.
With $13.7 million, Sony's "Spider-Man 3" came in third, raising its domestic take to $303.3 million. Worldwide, "Spider-Man 3" has topped $800 million.
"At World's End" was hindered by a running time of two hours, 47 minutes, limiting the number of screenings theaters could schedule. "Dead Man's Chest" was about 15 minutes shorter and "Spider-Man 3" was nearly a half-hour shorter.
But "At World's End" made up for that by playing in more theaters, an all-time high of 4,362, 110 more than "Spider-Man 3," the previous record-holder.
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. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," $112.5 million.
2. "Shrek the Third," $51 million.
3. "Spider-Man 3," $13.7 million.
4. "Bug," $3.3 million.
5. "Waitress," $3.1 million.
6. "28 Weeks Later," $2.5 million.
7. "Georgia Rule," $1.9 million.
8. "Disturbia," $1.8 million.
9. "Wild Hogs," $1.1 million.
10. "Fracture," $1.08 million.