LOS ANGELES – Johnny Depp and his pirate friends are keeping all the box-office treasure for themselves.
Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" remained the top movie for the third straight weekend, hauling in $35 million and lifting its total to $321.7 million after just 17 days, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Disney sequel passed the $305 million domestic total that its predecessor, 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," rang up during its entire six-month run.
"Dead Man's Chest" easily beat back a rush of new movies, which were led by Sony's family film "Monster House," a spooky animated tale that debuted at No. 2 with $23 million. The movie follows the adventures of a group of children at a mysterious neighbor's scary home.
Opening in third was M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water," an adult fairy tale from Warner Bros. that took in $18.2 million. Starring Paul Giamatti as an apartment manager who discovers a water nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) living beneath his complex's swimming pool, the movie was the weakest debut for writer-director Shyamalan in a string of wide releases since 1999 that included the blockbusters "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs."
Kevin Smith's "Clerks II," a Weinstein Co. and MGM follow-up to his 1994 independent-film hit about two slackers on the job, premiered at No. 6 with $9.6 million.
Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," a 20th Century Fox comedy about a superhero taking revenge against the boyfriend who jilted her, debuted at No. 7 with $8.7 million.
Overall movie business rose, with the top 12 movies taking in $143.2 million, up 11 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was the No. 1 movie with $28.3 million.
Hollywood continued its modest rebound after a 2005 slump in which movie attendance fell 8 percent from the previous year's. So far this year, attendance is up 3.8 percent compared to 2005, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Summer attendance had been running slightly behind 2005's but now is 4 percent ahead because of a surge the past three weekends.
"That's really attributable to the strength of `Pirates of the Caribbean,' because that's when the tide turned," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations.
On its 16th day of release Saturday, "Dead Man's Chest" became the fastest movie to cross the $300 million mark, beating the previous best pace of 17 days set last year by "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."
Within a week, "Dead Man's Chest" is expected to top the $339.7 million domestic take of "Finding Nemo" to become Disney's top-grossing movie.
"There are lots of plateaus for us to continue to strive for," said Chuck Viane, Disney's head of distribution.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," $35 million.
2. "Monster House," $23 million.
3. "Lady in the Water," $18.2 million.
4. "You, Me and Dupree," $12.8 million.
5. "Little Man," $11 million.
6. "Clerks II," $9.6 million.
7. "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," $8.7 million.
8. "Superman Returns," $7.46 million.
9. "The Devil Wears Prada," $7.43 million.
10. "Cars," $4.9 million.