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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Who says box office superheroes need to sport tights or youthful smirks to win the hearts of moviegoers?
The fantasy adventure "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," in which 65-year-old Harrison Ford reprises his role as an intrepid archeologist, unearthed $126 million during its first four days of release in North American theaters, its distributor said on Sunday.
Paramount Pictures predicted the long-awaited fourth installment of the adventure series would pick up an additional $25 million on Monday -- the Memorial Day holiday in the United States -- to bring its total to $151 million.
The five-day forecast was in line with industry expectations, and falls just $2 million short of the Memorial Day weekend record set last year by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." The five-day record is held by "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," which opened to $173 million a week before the Memorial Day holiday in 2005.
For the traditional Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, "Indiana Jones" made an estimated $101 million, the biggest opening of the year by that measure. The record was set three weekends ago by the superhero saga "Iron Man," which opened to $98.6 million without any holiday boost.
"Crystal Skull," directed by Steven Spielberg, is the first movie in the lucrative "Jones" franchise to hit theaters in 19 years. Ford, who delivers a few self-effacing remarks about his age in between some old-fashioned stunt work, is joined by Cate Blanchett and Spielberg's hot new discovery, Shia LaBeouf. George Lucas, who created the franchise in 1981, returned as executive producer.
Viacom Inc-owned Paramount, along with the filmmakers, shrouded the film in an unusual amount of secrecy ahead of its glitzy world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last Sunday, stoking the anticipation factor among nostalgic fans. It also opened in 61 foreign countries, but the studio said data would not be available until Monday.
"Indiana Jones" siphoned off some of the audience from last week's leader, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which slipped to No. 2 with $23 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period, a hefty slide of 58 percent.
After a disappointing $55 million opening last weekend, the second film in Walt Disney Co's "Narnia" fantasy series has earned $91 million -- about 20 percent off the pace of its 2005 predecessor, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
"Iron Man," meanwhile, fell to No. 3 with $20.1 million, taking its total to $252.3 million. Paramount distributed the film for its producer, Marvel Entertainment Inc.
Editing by Stacey Joyce