The movie Batman Returns took in an estimated $46.6-million in ticket sales on its opening weekend, the highest three-day box office gross in movie history, a Warner Bros. official said Sunday.
"This is sensational. It's an all-time industry record," said Barry Reardon, Warner Bros.' president of distribution.
The previous record holder was Batman, which sold $42.7-million worth of tickets its first weekend.
Batman Returns, the sequel to the 1989 hit movie, also had the single biggest night of any film, grossing just over $16-million Saturday, Reardon said.
The total of $46,558,000 that Warner Bros. estimated for the weekend includes projected ticket sales of about $14-million for Sunday.
The movie, which cost $55-million to produce, stars Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. His nemesis is the raw-fish eating Penguin, played by Danny DeVito. Michelle Pfeiffer co-stars as the slinky, sexy Catwoman.
Batman Returns was shown at midnight previews in 1,200 screens nationwide Thursday and officially opened Friday night at another 2,600 screens. Batman debuted on 400 fewer screens, according to news reports.
The original Batman movie was the sixth biggest-grossing film of all time, taking in about $250-million in the United States and Canada and another $155-million in international markets.
Reardon said the opening box office for Batman Returns raised hopes about the prospects for topping the first film's North American revenues but that it was too early to make predictions.
"That $250-million is the number we would want to beat if we could," he said.
Entertainment industry analysts predicted before the opening that it would gross between $150-million and $200-million, less than the original but still a healthy take in a sluggish economy.
Despite the success of Batman Returns, some reviewers have panned the film as too dark and lacking in plot, and many fans have come away disappointed that it did not live up to its advance hype.
While the movie played to packed houses in many cities, some theaters reported plenty of empty seats.
The merchandising of Batman products is expected to be even more lucrative than the box office take.
The original Batman reeled in more than $500-million in sales of T-shirts, toys, videocassettes and games.
Warner Bros. and its partners have mounted a $100-million advertising and promotional campaign for the sequel. The effort is backed by the marketing muscle of McDonald's and Diet Coke product and advertising tie-ins.
"Customer response is overwhelming," said McDonald's spokeswoman Susan Bergen.
More than 9,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States and Canada are offering customers Batman Happy Meals and six Batman Returns 32-ounce plastic drinking cups decorated with the main characters.
Warner Bros. has now produced the three biggest opening weekend box offices of all time. Along with the Batman movies, it made Lethal Weapon 3, which opened May 15-17 with $33.2-million in ticket sales.