It's time for the box office to put up or shut up. After a June that saw several films fail to live up to expectations and a loud thud for July's first big picture, the film that could and should be 2006's biggest earner of the year arrives.
Weekend Forecast for July 7-9, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
July 7, 2006
One of the biggest crowd-pleasing films of 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl made $305 million after a surprisingly strong $46 million opening weekend, causing two back-to-back sequels to immediately be greenlit. The first of those arrives this weekend, subtitled Dead Man's Chest. The sequel to 2003's mega-hit sees the return of Johnny Depp as Jack (sorry, Captain Jack) Sparrow, simultaneously the worst and best pirate in all the Caribbean, along with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (quick, name their characters... bzzt) in a new swashbuckling adventure.
This outing sees Sparrow still on the run from British authorities, but pursued by a more sinister force from beneath the waves; Davy Jones, he of Davy Jones's Locker (played by the incomparable Bill Nighy). The plot... well the plot wasn't really the point of the first film. What audiences are looking for, though, is more of what the first film brought - rollicking action and sardonic and surrealistic humor, all anchored by Depp, who - as you may remember - received an Oscar nomination for his first outing as the foppish Sparrow. It's as pure a testament to the power of one portrayal as it's possible to get.
Opening on 4,133 screens, Disney is clearly expecting big things from this film, and with good reason. An excellent, action-packed trailer backs up the audience anticipation built into this release. It's as broadly appealing a film as it's likely to get, aiming at kids, adults, males and females, pretty much everyone. The PG-13 rating could cut off a bit of the younger audience, as well as the two-and-a-half hour running time, though that never seemed to bother the Harry Potter films.
Midnight screenings Thursday night opened the film up, and Pirates is taking a full assault on the three-day box office record, currently held by Spider-Man at $114.84 million (sorry, Vinny Chase). I think they'll get it, and with a decent chance at breaking the single-day record of $50.0 million held by Star Wars Episode III as a bonus prize. Look for it to come in with a massive $119 million.
Every other film is wisely staying away from Pirates 2, leaving just our slate of returning films to challenge it. Superman Returns suddenly finds itself in a whole heap of trouble, having opened to only $52 million, a pittance for a supposedly top-tier superhero film. This, after a mid-week opening day that pointed to at least a $60 million weekend. All isn't lost, as the film was quite decently received, but it's very quickly become the number two man on the block. Expect a drop to $28 million this weekend, which will bring it close to the $150 million mark, total.
On the other hand, The Devil Wears Prada was able to write the textbook on counter-programming, capturing a largely female audience and earning $27 million its opening weekend. This announced quite loudly that Anne Hathaway is for real, as she was the main drawing point behind this film, though she was backed up in the film by Meryl Streep (a terrific actress, but by no means a box office star). It's been strong during mid-week and there's little reason to expect this counter-programming won't work again this weekend. Watch for a very slight (for these days) drop to $19 million.
Click dropped to third, with an expected 50% drop from its opening weekend, putting it at $80 million after two weekends. Adam Sandler has found himself a fairly respectable plateau in his career, though the overall slight decline in his box office totals (with Click likely topping out at around $130 million) might be a bit troubling. However, he remains a star with one of the most loyal fan bases around. Give Click another $11 million this weekend.
Pixar's Cars held strong in its fourth weekend, bringing in close to $15 million more. During the holiday weekdays, it performed strongly as the main family film out there. That's torpedoed some this weekend with the arrival of Pirates, but it should at least bring in $8 million this weekend, which would push it over the $200 million mark.
In limited release, Richard Linklater's long-awaited A Scanner Darkly arrives in 17 theaters this weekend. The adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick story stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey, Jr. in a story filled with drug use and paranoia. Filmed with the Rotoscope method Linklater utilized for his philosophical wankery in Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly is bound to be a polarizing film. It should make a significant impact in these few theaters, likely earning close to $500,000.