Box office records were shattered by Johnny Depp and his companions this weekend as the much-anticipated adventure sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest exploded into theaters with the biggest opening weekend in Hollywood history. Former champ Superman Returns was hit hard and fell sharply in its second weekend. However, Pirates managed to expand the overall marketplace with most holdovers not suffering large declines. For the first time in box office history, the top ten smashed through the $200M mark.
Movie fans piled into their local theater to see the new Pirates sequel spending a jaw-dropping $132M in ticket sales, according to estimates, over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period. It was the film industry’s largest debut ever beating the four-year-old record set by Spider-Man in May 2002 which launched with a $114.8M bow. Dead Man’s Chest averaged a stunning $31,945 from 4,133 theaters which was about even with the webslinger’s $31,769 opening weekend average from 3,615 locations.
Pirates broke a seemingly endless amount of other box office records over the weekend too. The PG-13 actioner set a new mark for opening days with its $55.5M Friday take beating the $50M Thursday bow of Star Wars Episode III from last summer. The high seas adventure also set new marks for Disney. The studio’s top debut had been 2004’s The Incredibles with $70.5M and its biggest live-action opening had been last winter’s The Chronicles of Narnia with $65.6M. Pirates debuted with about as much as those two hit openings combined. It also grossed more in its first three days than Superman Returns amassed in its first ten days.
The Friday gross included a stunning $9M in sales from Thursday night when theaters began their first shows at midnight. By comparison, the new Superman pic sold about $4M in night-before tickets for showtimes beginning earlier at 10pm. Upfront demand was intense for Pirates even though it was not a film based on popular literary material like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Spider-Man. Saturday saw an understandable drop of 20% to $44.6M and Sunday is estimated to fall 28% to $31.9M. The swashbuckling sequel also became the first film in history to cross the $100M mark in only two days.
Expectations going into the weekend were about as high as could be, but Pirates still surged past them. Dead Man’s Chest managed to reunite the cast and crew of the wildly popular 2003 megablockbuster including Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The first film opened on a Wednesday in July of that year and grossed $46.6M over the weekend and $70.6M over five days.
Stellar word-of-mouth carried it to the lofty $305.4M mark domestically and a fantastic $654M worldwide. That was enough to prompt the studio to move forward with two sequels. The concluding chapter, called At World’s End, is set to open over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend next May three weeks after Spider-Man 3 and just one week after Shrek 3. Look for some more industry records to get broken during that sensational month.
A number of factors contributed to the boffo bow of Pirates. Signing Depp, who is not known for doing sequels, was the first step. His compensation package was a worthy investment for the studio which now has a trilogy that could gross over $2 billion worldwide. Disney’s marketing was strong, but not over-the-top. The studio generated plenty of excitement without over-hyping the film. Reviews from critics were mixed, however audiences had their minds made up ahead of time anyway so they did not matter. Plus, Pirates had incredibly strong appeal with women which made the film play to a very broad audience. Disney reported that the opening weekend crowd was evenly split between men and women and connected with all age groups.
Also amazing about the opening of Dead Man’s Chest was that it soared to its incredible level even with all the competition already in the marketplace. Films opening in May or November ahead of all the other big summer and holiday releases can monopolize the box office and be the only game in town. But Pirates faced four other films that each sold over $10M in tickets this weekend. Those movies combined did a stellar $60M worth of business. By comparison, Spider-Man’s next four foes took in just $21M when it opened with none hitting double digit millions.
Pirates of the Caribbean also docked in other ports around the world this weekend planting its flag as the market champ in all of them. The United Kingdom led the way with a scorching $25M debut and was joined by $9M from South Korea, and $8.2M from Australia. Captain Sparrow looted an estimated $46.6M from only seven territories this weekend. Not wanting to battle the World Cup, Disney has spread its openings around the world throughout the rest of July. Robust grosses are expected once again this summer with the new Pirates tale hoping to make off with even more treasure than its predecessor.
After flying into the top spot over the extended Fourth of July holday weekend, Superman Returns took a beating in its second frame falling 58% to an estimated $21.9M. The drop was larger than sophomore declines seen in recent years by other big-budget action films opening on the Wednesday before this particular holiday session. Last year, War of Worlds fell 53% to $30.5M, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 dropped 49% to $45.2M, and 2002’s Men in Black II declined by 53% to $24.4M. The explosive opening of Pirates certainly took its toll on Superman since there was considerable overlap in the audiences for the two films.
After twelve days in theaters, Superman Returns has captured $141.7M and is running 14% behind the pace of War from a year ago which took in $165M over the same period on its way to $234.3M. Even last summer’s super hero film Batman Begins enjoyed a stronger sophomore weekend gross than Superman with a 43% drop to $27.6M. At its current pace, the Man of Steel might still be able to reach the $200M mark domestically, although it won’t be easy.
Given the enormous production budget of more than $240M for Superman Returns, international sales will be crucial to Warner Bros. on its road to profitability. The Clark Kent adventure took in an estimated $9.1M over the weekend from 14 markets falling by more than 50% from its $20M international opening last weekend. With an offshore cume of $35.4M to date, the worldwide tally climbed to $177M for Superman Returns. Now that the World Cup is over, the studio will release its super hero extravaganza this coming week in major markets such as France, Spain, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Moviegoers not interested in big-budget action adventures spent their money on comedies which filled up the next four spots. Meryl Streep led the funny flicks with an estimated $15.6M for her hit The Devil Wears Prada which dropped only 43% in its second weekend. It was a solid hold for the Fox title which has now grossed an impressive $63.7M in just ten days. Budgeted at $35M, Devil should power its way to the neighborhood of $110M.
Adam Sandler’s Click dropped 40% to an estimated $12M in its third weekend to raise its total to $105.9M making it the seventh $100M blockbuster for the comedian. After 17 days, the Sony film is running about even with the studio’s Sandler-Nicholson pic Anger Management which stood at $103.5M after the same amount of time on its way to a final cume of $135.6M. Click is enjoying solid mid-week business thanks to the summer play period so a final cume in the area of $140M seems likely. Sandler also joins Tom Cruise as the only stars with $100M+ hits in each of the last five years. Cruise’s streak spans the last seven years though, and Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson will have the opportunity to match Sandler’s feat later this year.
Disney’s big non-pirate summer entry Cars followed in fifth place with an estimated $10.3M in its fifth lap. Off only 29%, the Pixar animated film once again enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten and pushed its cume past the $200M mark to $205.5M. Overseas, Cars collected an estimated $14.6M to raise the international total to $65.1M and global tally to $270.6M.
Dropping 49% to sixth place was Paramount’s wrestling comedy Nacho Libre with an estimated $3.3M. The Jack Black pic upped its cume to $73.8M and looks to match the $81.3M of his 2003 hit School of Rock. The Lake House slipped 41% to an estimated $2.8M pushing its total to a decent $45.6M for Warner Bros.
Universal’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift took in an estimated $2.5M, down 45%, giving the street racing sequel $57.4M to date. Rounding out the top ten were the kidnapping actioner Waist Deep and the relationship comedy The Break-Up with estimates of $1.9M and $1.6M, respectively. Totals stand at $19.2M and $114.3M.
Opening in limited release with sparkling results was Richard Linklater’s animated drug drama A Scanner Darkly which bowed to an estimated $406,000 from only 17 theaters. The Warner Independent release averaged an encouraging $23,882 per location and played in eight markets. Keanu Reeves stars in the R-rated picture along with Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder who got to open a film on the same day as her ex-fiance Johnny Depp. His film was a bit bigger. On Friday, Scanner expands to about 190 theaters nationwide.
Miramax opened its soccer documentary Once in a Lifetime in one Manhattan exclusive engagement and grossed an estimated $12,225. The story of the New York Cosmos will widen in the coming weeks with the distributor hoping that World Cup fever will spark some interest with Americans.
One summer tentpole knocked another out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s The Da Vinci Code grossed an estimated $1.4M, off 42%, and upped its sum to $213.3M. After a seven-week run in the top ten, the $125M religious thriller still held up well and looks on a course to finish with about $217M from North America. Internationally, Code has grossed a stunning $500M making it the biggest overseas blockbuster of 2006 so far.
The top ten films grossed an astounding estimate of $204M which was up a dramatic 50% from last year when Fantastic Four debuted at number one with $56.1M; and up a stunning 55% from 2004 when Spider-Man 2 remained in the top spot with $45.2M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com