LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" in 3-D opens with a splash in more than 4,000 domestic theaters this weekend, including a record-breaking 256 IMAX screens, and is expected to scuttle all competition with an opening gross in excess of $100 million.

The first "Pirates" movie to be released in IMAX and 3-D, "On Stranger Tides" should have little trouble following in the formidable wake of its predecessors, one of the most successful film franchises of all time, after a midnight launch late Thursday. Johnny Depp reprises his celebrated role as Capt. Jack Sparrow, this time with Penelope Cruz joining in the fun.

Walking down the aisle with a likely second-place finish at around $20 million is Judd Apatow's female-driven comedy "Bridesmaids" from Universal. As one of the strongest word-of-mouth movies released this year, the film's raunchy, R-rated sensibility has boosted it to first place in a midweek box office rally. Starring "SNL's" Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, the film has appeal to both men and women looking for edgy summer fun at the multiplex.

Paramount's "Thor" has been a box office god, topping the chart for two consecutive weekends and thus proving the continued drawing power of comic-book super heroes. Boasting a terrific ensemble cast and direction by Kenneth Branagh, known more for his Shakespearian endeavors, this above-average summer flick is expected to attract a third-place gross in the mid-teens.

Universal's "Fast Five" has been in the driver's seat worldwide for the past month and refuses to leave the domestic top five as it builds on continued support from audiences that can't get enough of the hyper-kinetic popcorn epic. Expected to gross in the low teens this weekend, the film is making a fast and furious run toward the $200 million mark in North American and well beyond $400 million globally.

Sony's 3-D action thriller "Priest" will go head to head with the very popular birds of Fox's "Rio" in a battle for fifth place, with grosses in the $5 million to $7 million range.


Paul Dergarabedian is president of the Box Office Division of Hollywood.com and a longtime box office analyst for The Associated Press.


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