Indiana Jones and the raiders of the lost box office

He may not be getting any younger and that bullwhip might not crack with the snap it once had. But Indiana Jones's enduring ability to strike box-office gold has eased some of the pain of a disastrous early summer for Hollywood's studios.

The fourth instalment in the series, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, has chalked up the biggest opening receipts of the year, generating worldwide sales of more than $300m (£151m), making it one of the most lucrative launches in film history.

Despite mixed reviews that saw star Harrison Ford dubbed "the fogey in a fedora", distributor Paramount reported takings of more than $151m in the US alone – the second-best figures ever for a film released over the crucial Memorial Day bank holiday weekend.

The film, set during the Cold War, sees the well-travelled archaeologist journey to the depths of the Amazon after becoming embroiled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind a collection of Mayan artefacts.

Despite a series of improbable plot twists and action scenes that stretch the credulity of audiences to its limit, America has taken Jones to its heart. Many members of the sell-out crowds across the country were wearing leather jackets and battered hats, in tribute to Harrison Ford's battle-scarred action hero.

The film's commercial success was also boosted by hype surrounding last Sunday's glitzy world premiere at Cannes, which saw Ford walking the red carpet with co-star Cate Blan-chett and director Stephen Spielberg's new "discovery" Shia LaBeouf, who plays Jones's son Mutt Williams.

That was enough to put it straight to the top of the charts in Europe with receipts of £12.5m in Britain and £7.1m in France. In the US, producers said audiences were boosted by nostalgic fans of the franchise, which began with Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981, bringing their children along.

"Business was driven by people in their 30s and 40s and that audience was excited to see the movie with their families," said Rob Moore of Paramount. Two- thirds of the North American audience was 25 or over.

The opening has come at a crucial time for Hollywood. Box-office takings are down almost 4 per cent on last year, while attendances have dropped by 6.7 per cent.

Studios are facing a summer of industrial discontent, on top of the 100-day writers' strike that crippled the awards season following a row over payments for clips and films screened online. More than 120,000 members of the Screen Actor's Guild are threatening to bring Hollywood to a standstill from 30 June in a similar row. The union would halt film and television production and may stop actors promoting their films.

Paramount and George Lucas, the creator of Indiana Jones, face political difficulties in one of the lucrative markets they still hope to crack. The Communist Party of St Petersburg in Russia has made waves in Hollywood after complaining that Crystal Skull's portrayal of Soviet villains is insulting and historically inaccurate.

"We are outraged with this film, which has nothing to do with reality," said a spokesman, calling the movie a "vile lampoon" and Ford and Blanchett "puppets of imperialism".

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