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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - North American moviegoers spent the Memorial Day weekend nursing a giant "Hangover" as the raunchy comedy sequel helped power the holiday to record ticket sales, according to studio data issued on Monday.
Meanwhile, foreign fans ensured that the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" adventure remained the top global pick.
"The Hangover, Part II," one of the most anticipated releases of the summer, sold $137.4 million worth of tickets across the United States and Canada during its first five days, said distributor Warner Bros. Pictures.
It has already earned more than the 2009 original did in its first 10 days despite largely negative critical reaction to the latest tale of four revelers' drunken hijinks, this time in Thailand.
The tally, which includes $31.6 million from a head start on Thursday, exceeded the studio's expectation of an opening in the $90 million to $100 million range. The film cost the Time Warner Inc unit about $80 million to make.
The film also opened in 40 foreign markets, earning $60.3 million through Sunday, according to updated Warner Bros. data. It opened at No. 1 in Britain with $16.7 million, setting a record for an American comedy, the studio said.
Along with new installments in the "Kung Fu Panda" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises, "Hangover" drove Memorial Day holiday weekend sales to a new record of about $280 million, according to box office analysts at Hollywood.com. The old record of $255 million was set in 2007.
The multiplex stampede could not come at a better time for the studios, which suffered a dismal first half. Hollywood.com estimated that 2011 sales slid 8.8 percent through Sunday, while the number of tickets sold dropped 10.2 percent.
Summer is the most lucrative time of the year for Hollywood, with sales accounting for about 40 percent of the annual take. But the studios do not take too many chances with their product, relying on sequels to bring in the masses. A new "X-Men" film opens on Friday, followed by "Cars" and "Transformers" updates later in June.
"Kung Fu Panda 2," a follow-up to the 2008 animated hit, opened at No. 2 with a five-day haul of $68 million (including a Thursday contribution of $5.8 million). The original had earned $73 million in the same period, and went on to gross $215 million.
Paramount Pictures, the distributor of the DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc release, had forecast a modest opening in the $65 million to $70 million range for the new film despite premium pricing for 3D screenings.
The film also earned $57 million from just 11 foreign countries, mostly in Asia. China led the way with $18.5 million. Paramount is a unit of Viacom Inc.
Last weekend's champion "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," the fourth entry in Johnny Depp's pirate adventure, slipped to No. 3 with $50.4 million for the four days from Friday to Monday.
The total for the Walt Disney Co release rose to $164 million after 11 days, far short of the pace for the previous film. In 2007, "At World's End" had earned $222 million in the same span.
Still, the new film is the top pick around the world, with foreign weekend sales of $137.1 million sending the overseas total to $485.1 million. The global total -- including North American sales -- stands at $649 million.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Eric Beech