LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The massively hyped "Indiana Jones" movie whipped up an impressive $56 million in its first two days of release across North America, its distributor said on Saturday, but will struggle to break industry records during the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the first film in the adventure series to hit the big screen in 19 years, earned an estimated $31 million on Friday, according to Paramount Pictures.
A day earlier, it opened amid mixed reviews to $25 million -- the fourth highest-grossing Thursday debut on record. The industry, suffering a tepid year so far, is seizing on such benchmarks as early signs of a recovery. The second-day tally ranked more modestly at No. 15 for Friday sales, according to Box Office Mojo, which analyzes movie sales data.
"Indiana Jones," reuniting actor Harrison Ford as the eponymous archeologist, director Steven Spielberg and executive producer George Lucas, also opened in 61 foreign countries on the heels of its glitzy world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last Sunday. Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc, did not have early foreign returns.
In North America, industry observers expect "Indiana Jones" to earn more than $150 million in its first five days.
Comparisons with the record-holder for the Memorial Day weekend, last year's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," are a little difficult. The third film in the swashbuckler franchise also opened on a Thursday -- but in the evening, whereas "Indiana Jones" screened for a full day. Ticket prices have also risen since then.
Still, "Pirates" also managed to earn $56 million for the two-day period, on its way to $153 million for the five days through Monday. The five-day record is held by "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," which opened to $173 million in 2005, a week before the Memorial Day holiday in 2005.
"Indiana Jones" siphoned off some of the audience from last week's leader, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which opened to a disappointing $55 million last weekend.
The second film in the "Narnia" fantasy series earned $6.6 million on Friday, said Box Office Mojo. That represented a 66 percent drop from the prior Friday. By contrast, its 2005 predecessor, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," dropped 61 percent in the same period.
To date, the sequel has earned $75 million, about 17 percent off the pace of the first one. A spokeswoman for the films' distributor, Walt Disney Co, was not available for comment.
The superhero smash "Iron Man," which kicked off the summer in fine style three weeks ago, was No. 3 on Friday with $5.3 million, off about 39 percent. The total for the Marvel Entertainment Inc production, also distributed by Paramount, rose to $237 million, said Box Office Mojo.
Editing by Vicki Allen