Box Office Guru Wrapup: "Pirates" Captures $400M in Global Gold

by | May 28, 2007 | Comments

Movie fans filled up multiplexes around the world giving "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" the largest global opening in box office history. In North America, the latest Johnny Depp adventure broke the record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend debut ever while still competing with fellow big-budget threequels "Shrek the Third" and "Spider-Man 3."

Ashley Judd’s new horror film "Bug" was mostly ignored but Keri Russell’s indie comedy "Waitress" made a splash expanding into national release and climbing all the way up to number five despite playing in just a fraction of the theaters of the other big holiday offerings. Overall, moviegoers spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on tickets for the top ten films over the long four-day weekend making it the highest-grossing Memorial Day frame ever.

Disney launched its assault on the summer box office with "At World’s End" which easily topped the charts and grossed an estimated $142.1M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday frame and a total of $156.1M since its early opening on Thursday night with 8pm shows. The amount was similar to the $153.8M that its predecessor "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" collected in its first four days last July. That film did not have an early Thursday debut and was not over a holiday weekend, but faced less competition in the marketplace. "At World’s End"’s four-day figure set a new record for the holiday easily beating the $122.9M of "X-Men: The Last Stand" from a year ago.

Over the Friday-to-Sunday period, the new "Pirates" tale took in $115.1M making it the fourth biggest opening weekend ever behind "Spider-Man 3," "Dead Man’s Chest," and "Shrek the Third." "At World’s End"’s journey began on Thursday with $14M from shows beginning at 8pm. Friday saw $43M in ticket sales starting from 12:01am showtimes, Saturday dipped 11% to $38.2M, Sunday eased another 11% to $33.8M, and Monday is estimated to drop by 20% to $27M. The new "Pirates" set sail in a record 4,362 theaters in North America and averaged $26,377 over three days, $32,566 over four days, and $35,776 overall including Thursday.

"At World’s End" reunited the cast and crew of the first two films in the series including actors Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. Critics were harsh on the new installment and especially thought it was too long at 2 hours and 47 minutes. The pic’s B+ grade from over 19,000 users of Yahoo Movies suggests that fans are moderately satisfied with the latest Jack Sparrow tale.

Across the world, Disney claimed the all-time opening record with an estimated haul of $401M in ticket sales over six days from Wednesday through Monday. The first handful of countries bowed the effects-driven pic on Wednesday and by Saturday it was playing in 102 international territories where it looted an estimated $245M by the end of Monday. That was enough to break the old records set just three weeks ago by "Spider-Man 3" of $231M international and $382M global over its own six-day launch.

"Shrek the Third" fell sharply in its second weekend and claimed second place with a still-impressive $69.1M over the four-day weekend, according to estimates. The Friday-to-Sunday tally of $53M represented a disturbing 56% fall from its opening weekend. "Shrek 2," which also opened a week before the Memorial Day holiday frame, suffered a more manageable 33% drop over the three-day portion of its sophomore session. "Third" has not been as well-liked by moviegoers and faced tougher competition with "Pirates" launching. After 11 full days of release, the latest ogre tale has commanded $219.4M and seems on course to finish its North American journey in the neighborhood of $330M.

Swinging down to the number three position was the month’s first threequel, "Spider-Man 3," with an estimated $18M over four days. The super hero saga’s three-day portion dropped a troubling 52% but the cume after 25 days is now a towering $307.6M. The new Spidey crossed the $300M mark on Sunday after only 24 days and now sits at number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after "Independence Day" which took in $306.2M in 1996, when ticket prices were much lower. A final North American haul of about $340M still seems likely. The latest webslinger sequel also pulled in $19.1M over the three-day weekend internationally to push the overseas gross to $499M. That puts the global gross at a stunning $806M and counting. By next weekend, the Venom pic will become the top-grossing "Spider-Man" film ever in terms of worldwide box office.

May’s trio of hotly anticipated threequels has definitely generated lots of cash at the domestic box office with a combined cume to date of $683M. Corresponding totals for the top three May releases by Memorial Day over the past three years were $384M for last year, $394M for 2005, and $481M for 2004. However, moviegoers are not going crazy over any of them and seem to be left with lukewarm feelings which is hurting the long-term prospects. Many even feel that each is the worst installment in its own trilogy. Second weekend drops were mighty large for "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek the Third" and "At World’s End" might play out the same way. In fact, it’s possible that none of the big threequels will reach the $350M mark domestically. If ticket buyers start feeling sequel fatigue this early with so many familiar characters and stories, it could pose a problem to the many summer sequels still on tap for the three months ahead. Films offering something new and fresh may just grab the attention of the public soon.

Lionsgate opened its new horror film "Bug" in fourth place but was met with a dismal $4.2M, according to estimates. The Ashley Judd starrer averaged a poor $2,529 from 1,661 sites over four days. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, the R-rated chiller grossed $3.3M and averaged a dismal $1,993.

Fox Searchlight’s indie sensation "Waitress" jumped into the top five this weekend as it expanded from 116 to 510 theaters across the country grossing an estimated $4M. The Keri Russell comedy averaged a solid $7,843 over four days and played as the alternative for adult audiences not interested in third helpings of bloated Hollywood franchises. With $6.5M after only its third weekend, "Waitress" could become a sleeper hit this summer and its high chart position will certainly help it nab more media attention this week. Over three days, the Sundance title grossed $3.1M and averaged $6,078.

The horror sequel "28 Weeks Later" ranked sixth with an estimated $3.3M over four days to push Fox’s total to a decent $24.4M. "Disturbia" collected an estimated $2.4M in seventh place boosting its cume for Paramount to a sturdy $74.9M.

Universal’s dramedy "Georgia Rule" followed with an estimated $2.4M giving the Jane Fonda-Lindsay Lohan pic a weak $16.8M to date. Moviegoers spent an estimated $1.6M on Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling as their thriller "Fracture" spent its sixth weekend in the top ten for a $37.1M sum. Disney’s comedy "Wild Hogs" jumped back into the top ten with an estimated $1.4M raising its stellar cume to $163.3M. Remaining holdover films earned less than $1M each over four days.

In the arthouses, Fox Searchlight’s musical romance "Once" expanded and was still a potent player. The Irish film grossed an estimated $433,000 over four days from only 20 sites for a sturdy $21,626 average over the long weekend. Cume is now $537,000 and the distributor will widen this Friday into ten additional cities to roughly 60 playdates total.

Miramax saw strong results for the debut of its Italian film "Golden Door" which opened to an estimated $37,000 from a pair of houses. Averaging $18,500 per location, the immigrant tale expands further on Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $247.8M over four days which was up 8% from last year when "X-Men: The Last Stand" opened at number one with a then-record $122.9M; and up 11% from 2005 when "Star Wars Episode III" remained on top with $70M.