Box Office Rings Up Third $100 Million Earner
By John Hamann
May 28, 2007
The miraculous May continues at the box office this Memorial Day holiday weekend, as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, did the expected and opened very big from a record amount of venues. The flip side to all of this good news is that May's success comes from only three films, all of them third films in their respective franchises. This leaves a large wake behind Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean at the box office. June looks powerful with some interesting films set for release, but top ten totals may yet suffer.
The number one film of the weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and even with a massive run time of 168 minutes, the latest adventure of Jack Sparrow still managed to pull in $156.1 million over the four (and a half) days at the box office. Johnny Depp and friends started the long weekend early on Thursday, and the latest Pirates sequel earned $14 million from earlier than normal Thursday showings across North America. It followed that number up with a $43 million gross on Friday, better than Shrek the Third's first Friday of $38.4 million, but far behind Spider-Man 3's opening day gross of $59.8 million (however, in Spidey's case, Thursday sneaks were not broken out of that figure). The Friday gross (without sneaks) was the fourth largest Friday of all time, and if those Thursday night screenings are added, it becomes second best to only Spider-Man 3.
At World's End had a Saturday gross of $37.7 million, a 12% drop from Friday. We know that Sunday was estimated at $33.7 million, slightly higher than usual thanks to the holiday on Monday. This number reprsents a decline of only 11% from Satuday and gives the Gore Verbinski flick a three day multiplier of 2.66 - a decent figure for such a large, long and hugely anticipated film over opening weekend. Compare that to last year's big blockbuster Memorial Day title, X-Men: The Last Stand. It started with a larger Friday of $45.1 million, then fell 29% to $32 million on Saturday, followed by another 20% to $25.7 million on Sunday. Its three-day multiplier was 2.28. We have recently discussed the difficulty for movies with $40 million Fridays to attain strong weekend multipliers. X-Men: The Last Stand is the blueprint example in that it collapsed over the long weekend despite holiday inflated numbers. The third Pirates film - perhaps aided by being more family-friendly - sustained momentum throughout the weekend.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End got started at a record breaking 4,362 venues. That's 110 more than Spider-Man 3 got started with, and about 250 more than Shrek the Third. For the three-day weekend, At World's End had a venue average of $26,364 - a few thousand behind that of Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3. There is a huge difference between these films and that is run time. Shrek the Third came in at a measly 92 minutes; Spider-Man 3 was over two hours at 140 minutes. At World's End was longer than both of these films, coming in at a long 168 minutes, which would have made this a tough one to schedule at your local theatre. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers had a runtime of 179 minutes, but only earned $62 million over its first Friday-to-Sunday of release. Long films combined with long sets of previews and commercials are tough to open large, as the number of screenings should be reduced. At one time, only a few years ago, many thought it was impossible to open a long film like this to over $100 million. At World's End has proven again that if you give moviegoers something they want to see, they are willing to go to any length to fulfill their needs.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a huge film for Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer. The reported budget is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million, and when reviews rolled out early in the week, it must have made some slightly nervous. Reviews came in as mixed at best, with only 71 out of a possible 149 giving this one a positive review. That equates to a fresh rating of 48%, a figure that both Spider-Man 3 (61% fresh) and Shrek the Third (41% fresh) can identify with. May has proven again that the blockbuster is review-proof (we will get an even better example when the sure-to-be-dreadful Fantastic Four follow-up hits screens). Overall though, Disney has to be very pleased with their investment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.