"The Hangover Part II" is now assured a massive box-office take of more than $100 million over the Memorial Day weekend.
An even raunchier follow-up to 2009's surprise hit, the R-rated comedy took in $31.7 million on its first day in theaters in the U.S. and Canada on Thursday, including $10.4 million from late-night screenings just after midnight.
That's the biggest opening day for a live-action comedy and the third biggest Thursday debut of all time, not accounting for ticket price inflation, according to Box Office Mojo.
Such momentum presages strong ticket sales that could take the Todd Phillips-directed picture to a total of around $125 million by Monday, according to two studio executives who analyzed the early receipts but requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
In 2008, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" debuted to $25 million on the Thursday before Memorial Day and went on to gross $152 million by Monday. The previous year, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" took in $13.2 million on its opening Thursday and reached $153 million by Memorial Day.
Of course, the performance of "The Hangover Part II" will rest largely on word-of-mouth. While critics have largely panned the film, moviegoers who saw the sequel opening day give it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That's good news for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, which financed the $80 million film. Additionally, Warner is spending tens of millions of advertising dollars to promote the movie worldwide.
"Kung Fu Panda 2," the weekend's other new release, got an even better CinemaScore of A. But that was the only good news Thursday for the film, as it opened to a modest $5.8 million. Financier DreamWorks Animation and distributor Paramount Pictures are expecting the animated comedy starring Jack Black to fare much better over the weekend when children are out of school.