Studio Estimates: Paramount Reports a Healthy $25M Opening Day for ‘Indiana Jones’

THURSDAY 9:30 p.m. (Pacific): Early box office results for Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are very good, but shy of the meteoric predictions by many box office analysts including yours truly. It appears that the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg collaboration, the first Indiana Jones sequel in 19 years, has grabbed an estimated $25M on Thursday. That is well off the $50M haul enjoyed by LucasStar Wars: Episode III  – Revenge of the Sith on Thursday, May 19, 2005. The film was thought to have a chance to surpass Revenge of the Sith‘s $172.8M five-day record, but that now becomes improbable at best.

Industry tracking for Indy 4  has been huge for weeks, and as of opening day, its Un-Aided Awareness is at 38 percent, the Total Aware is 98 percent, Definite Interest is at 67 percent and the First Choice score is 55 percent. Numbers like that have certainly created monstrous box office expectations.

Now the question is, how will the Memorial Day weekend play out for Indy? Everyone has been operating on the assumption that the new Indiana Jones would play like the typical teen-driven blockbuster á la Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End from last summer. That would have meant a huge Thursday, a probably 25 percent-30 percent dip on Friday, a small five percent Saturday increase, down five percent on Sunday and then finally down 32 percent on Monday. Instead, the word is that Indy 4 is playing like a flat-out family film.

The generally well-reviewed Lucasfilm production was a bit softer-than-expected in Wednesday midnight shows. I am told that the take for previews 12:01 am and later totaled about $4M. My sources tell me that Indy 4 is playing very strongly with families, especially at showtimes in the 4 pm-7 pm range, but audiences thinned later in the evening.

The word is that the three strongest demos for First Choice in industry tracking are 45-69’s with 63 percent, 35-44’s with 52 percent and 25-34’s with 46 percent. Those are Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers with kids and grandkids that are looking forward to introducing them to a movie franchise that they hold in a certain holy reverence. This could translate to much bigger Saturday, Sunday and Monday matinee audiences than previously anticipated.

One studio exec told me that there is still a massive number here for Indy 4, but it will get their differently than expected. The continued weakness of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney), which dipped to an estimated $2.46M Thursday, has left Indy 4 as the primary movie-going option over the long weekend.

Another dynamic that will have an effect on Indy’s performance is the weather. Rain showers are possible in Florida on Friday and Saturday, while the Western U.S. experiences unseasonably cool temperatures. Showers and thunderstorms are also possible Friday and Saturday in cities like San Francisco, Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Provo. Precipitation is likely in important markets like Minneapolis and Milwaukee on Sunday. The more bad weather there is, the better Indy 4 will perform.