‘Fast 6’ passes ‘Hangover’ at box office

This film publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Jordana Brewster (left) and Paul Walker in a scene from “Fast & Furious 6.”

Giles Keyte

LOS ANGELES — After a lackluster start to the year, the movie industry enjoyed its most robust Memorial Day weekend ever at the box office, with “Fast & Furious 6” speeding to the top spot.

The record-breaking four-day weekend generated estimated receipts of $316 million.

“Over $300 million for Memorial Day weekend has never happened before,” said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com. “This proves that when you have a great selection of films, audiences will line up at movie theaters in record numbers.”

The sixth installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise debuted at No. 1 with $120 million, making it the biggest opening weekend for a Universal Pictures release, according to Hollywood.com.

Starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, the romp took in $158 million internationally.

Fans turned out because filmmakers upped the ante, said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s head of distribution.

“The creative team, the filmmakers and the studio put their heart and soul into making it bigger and better,” she said. “When you have this many films in the franchise ... you have to take it in a new direction.”

The street racers battle both a tank and a plane in the film.

“It is the very definition of the summer popcorn movie,” Dergarabedian said. “You suspend disbelief, buckle up and go along for that ride.”

“The Hangover Part III,” starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, opened in second place. The final chapter in the Warner Bros. raunchy comedy trilogy collected $51.2 million.

Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” which opened last week, added $47 million to its domestic ticket sales, landing at No. 3.

Fox’ animated “Epic,” the only non-sequel among the weekend’s five top-grossing films, opened in the fourth spot with $42.6 million.

“We did see a hole in the release schedule that said this is the perfect time to launch an animated film,” said Fox president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson.