The Hangover Part II has notched the biggest domestic opening ever for a live action comedy, grossing an estimated $86.5m at the North American box office over three days and $118.1m since its Thursday (May 26) release.

Kung Fu Panda 2 opened slightly less impressively but still very well, taking an estimated $48m over three days and helping to push overall North American box office to what is expected to be a record total for the extended Memorial Day weekend.

An R-rated sequel to the summer 2009 original film, Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ The Hangover Part II opened almost twice as big as its predecessor, which went on to gross $277.3m domestically, currently the record for an R-rated comedy.

Taking its $86.5m from 3,615 theatres, for a per-theatre average of $23,923, the sequel easily beat the previous opening record for an R-rated comedy, the $57m scored in 2008 by Sex and the City.

Part II is on course to gross more than $135m for five days by the end of the Monday Memorial Day holiday.

With Todd Phillips again directing Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, the sequel has a new Bangkok setting and, at a reported $80m, a much bigger budget than the original. Though it was hammered by critics, it tapped into massive pent up demand created by the original’s surprise success.

Kung Fu Panda 2, the DreamWorks Animation 3D sequel distributed by Paramount, took its estimated $48m from 3,925 screens (for a $12,229 average) over the Friday-Sunday period. Also released on Thursday, the sequel had reached $53.8m by the end of the standard weekend and could still top $65m by the end of holiday Monday.

Directed by Jennifer Yuh (a story artist on the original film) and once again featuring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan, the well reviewed big budget (reportedly $150m) sequel should be able to tap into school holiday audiences over the coming weeks.

Its three-day opening was smaller than the $60.2m achieved by the original film in summer 2008, though the comparison is complicated by the fact that the original, which went on to take $215.4m domestically, opened on a non-holiday weekend.

Buena Vista’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides dropped 56% on its second weekend, taking an estimated $39.3m from 4,164 screens (average $9,443) for a total so far of $152.9m.

Holding up better was Universal’s Bridesmaids, which in its third weekend was down only 22% with an estimated $16.4m, for a domestic total of $85m.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris into 58 theatres in the film’s second weekend and achieved a $1.9m gross for a domestic total of $2.8m.

Outside the top ten, Terrence Malick’s Cannes Palme D’Or winner The Tree of Life opened well through Fox Searchlight, taking an estimated $352,000 from four theatres for a strong per-theatre average of $88,000.

Next weekend’s only wide release is Fox’s X-Men: First Class, prequel to the three earlier releases in the comic book-based franchise with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender starring and Matthew Vaughn directing.

Estimated Top 10 North America May 27-29, 2010
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date
1(-) The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros) WBPI $86.5m $118.1m
2 (-) Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount/DreamWorks) PPI $48m $53.8m
3 (1) Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $39.3m $152.9m
4 (2) Bridesmaids (Universal) UPI $16.4m $85m
5 (3) Thor (Paramount/Marvel Studios) PPI $9.4m $159.7m
6 (4) Fast Five (Universal) UPI $6.6m $196m
7 (-) Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) Imagina $1.9m $2.8m
8 (7) Jumping The Broom (TriStar) SPRI $1.9m $34.2m
9 (8) Something Borrowed (Warner Bros) Summit Int’l $1.8m $34.8m
10 (5) Rio (Fox) Fox Int’l $1.8m $134.8m