How High Will Indy Climb?

The fourth Indiana-Jones instalment hit theatres roughly 20 hours ago, and hopes are already high that it will beat some record during its five-day opening. The question is, which one?

And it’s with this column, that we begin this summer’s heavily-asterisked process of ranking blockbuster-movie openings.

As we previously reported, Paramount execs and box-office experts are already predicting figures in the vacinity of $150 million. In terms of specific projections, Nikki Finke’s experts say the highly-anticipated tentpole will pull in between $142 million and $175 million; she guesses $160 million. (Variety and THR don’t offer specifics and has yet to weigh in. Slackers!)

To have the biggest opening weekend of all time, Indy will have to surpass Spider-Man 3‘s $151 million haul, but he’ll have to do it in three days. If Paramount’s highly-anticipated tentpole tops $153 million in its first four-and-a-half days, it will beat last summer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for the biggest Memorial Day-weekend opening. But the real challenge is whether Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can top Lucas’ own Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, which pulled in $172.8 million in 2005 for the biggest five-day opening ever.

While this battle rages on, the battle to extract groan-worthy puns from the title Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has also already commenced. The winner so far: this sentence from The Hollywood Reporter: “Paramount executives make no bones about hoping that “Skull” can outgross in its five-day debut the $151.1 million bow posted by Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ over a three-day frame in May 2007.” Oof. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see lines like “Crystal Skull tops the box office,” “Kingdom reigns” or “Crystal Skull shines in theatres.” How much do you think the movie will rake in this weekend, and what sort of horrible puns can we look forward to in Tuesday’s box-office reports?

UPDATE: Indy pulled in $25 million on Thursday, beating analysts expectations of $18 million for first-day business. According to Nikki Finke, who reported these numbers, Paramount’s now lowering its expectations and thinks $150 million is likely to be the weekend total.

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