Friday Box Office Analysis
By David Mumpower
July 8, 2006

He's half villain, half Iron Chef ingredient.

Move over, webslinger. There's a new hero in town, and his name is Captain Jack Sparrow.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

In 2002, Disney began rolling out movies that were based on their theme park rides. At the time, it seemed like an exercise in folly and the first of these releases, The Country Bears, gave no reason to believe otherwise. Its final box office tally was just under $17 million. In November of 2003, The Haunted Mansion was released. It earned only $75.8 million against a reported budget of $90 million. But in the middle of those two films, redemption unexpectedly arrived in the form of a foppish, fey pirate - right during the height of the short-lived metrosexuality trend. That fad's time may have passed, but Captain Jack's popularity carries on. The last 36 hours of box office have proven this fact in emphatic fashion.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest shattered the single-day box office record on Friday, accumulating an unprecedented $54.8 million from 4,133 venues. This represents a single day per-venue average of $13,271. Over a three-day weekend, that would be the equivalent of just under $40,000 per location. We're through the looking glass here, people.

Pirates didn't just beat the one-day record of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It exceeded that prior number of $50.0 million by almost 10%. It's somewhat difficult to put this type of performance into perspective, but BOP is going to try. On its own, a $54.8 million weekend would be the 42nd largest opening and 46th largest weekend total ever recorded. This one-day total surpasses the entire weekend performance of last frame's $209 million-budgeted Superman Returns by almost $2.5 million. It beats the initial three-day performance of Superman Returns ($48.4 million) by 13.2%...and this is the film with the 51st best weekend of all-time we are using for comparison. Also, to give you a little bit of perspective on Dead Man's Chest's mighty impact, its Friday intake of $54.8 million represents almost 72% of the top ten's combined $77.6 million in box office receipts. That's domination.

After a single day of reported box office, Dead Man's Chest is the fifth largest opening of 2006. It will surpass Cars ($60.1 million), Ice Age: The Meltdown ($68.0 million) and The Da Vinci Code ($77.0 million) for second place by the end of matinees today. Perhaps most impressively, Jack Sparrow's latest tale only needs $45 million in box office today (a 4.7% bump from Friday) in order to break the $100 million barrier in two days. When Spider-Man did this in three days, box office analysts were stunned. Two days to $100 million could be the box office equivalent of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. If that does get broken, it won't happen for at least a decade. And a $48 million Saturday (unlikely, we know) would mean that Pirates has matched X-Men: The Last Stand's box office performance in only two days. This is the fourth largest opening of all-time we are discussing yet Pirates has an outside chance of doing that in only two days.

X-Men: The Last Stand had a 2.28 internal multiplier after its sensational opening Friday of $45.1 million. Even if Dead Man's Chest were to be that supremely front-loaded, we are still talking about a $124.8 million opening. Such a performance would exceed Spider-Man's record by exactly $10 million and it would also slightly exceed the less publicized three-day record of Revenge of the Sith, $124.2 million. Pirates 2 needs only a 2.09 internal multiplier to break Spider-Man's record. This feat appears certain, and the surpassing of Episode III's Thursday-through-Saturday performance is also likely.

Having discussed worst-cast scenario about the potential front-loading of Pirates, we now move on to the bigger question of how strong a weekend should we realistically be expecting? A straight multiplier is not a good practice for a title with midnight sneaks. We need to break the tally down into the Thursday and the Friday totals. The midnight showings of Dead Man's Chest are estimated in the range of $12 million, which would be another record total, by the way. These numbers will not be reported until tomorrow at the earliest and may not be publicized at all, but it's the best guess available at the moment. That would mean that Pirates earned $43 million on Friday. With reports of sellouts across the country, a family-friendly theme, and an extended running time, all of the reasons supporting a strong multiplier exist. Since we are talking about a historically unprecedented number, though, it's important to keep expectations realistic. A multiplier of 2.8 is a good guideline and lower than that wouldn't even be surprising. A Saturday/Sunday holdover better than this would put us in "Look out!" territory. As it is, a 2.8 internal multiplier on a $43 million Friday with the Thursday $12 million added back into the equation would mean a $132.4 million weekend. Stating the obvious, Jack Sparrow just whipped Peter Parker's ass.

Notable Holdovers

Not that it matters much to anyone at this point, but there are a couple of other films to discuss. Superman Returns fell from $16.3 million last Friday to $6.9 million yesterday. This drop is particularly troubling when we consider that Superman Returns had a Wednesday opening. As such, the 58% decline from Friday-to-Friday appears to be a reasonable barometer of its second weekend decline. Even if we generously give it the benefit of the doubt with a 55% weekend decline, $23.6 million is looking to be the best the Man of Steel and Warner Bros. can hope for.

The Devil Wears Prada fell a slightly worse-than-expected 55% to $4.2 million. A weekend performance in the range of $13.5 million is likely. That's okay, though, because that's about what people were expecting this film to make last weekend. It's unquestionably a hit.