Weekend Wrap-Up

Pirates 4 Jumps the Box Office Shark

By John Hamann

May 22, 2011

Disney isn't going to let us go until we agree to do more movies, are they?

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Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane are the same – bigger stars to international audiences than they are to domestic ones. Despite being out to only a handful of territories, On Stranger Tides has already earned $92.1 in those locations after only a couple of days. Pirates 4 will end up as another ridiculous success for Disney, but it has jumped the shark – and I bet Captain Jack will think long and hard before setting sail for a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

The fourth Shrek film, Shrek Forever After, opened a year ago this weekend, and it appears to have something in common with On Stranger Tides. The original Shrek opened two years prior to the first Pirates film, and took in $42.3 million over its opening frame, and went on to earn $267 million in the summer of 2001. It had an open-to-total multiplier of over 6.3, a figure that says sequel more than the domestic gross. The first Pirates was the same, opening to $46.6 million, and finishing with a domestic gross of $305.4 million. Its opening-to-total multiplier was above 6.5. Both franchises had huge second and third films – Shrek 2 and 3 opened to $108 million and $121 million, Pirates 2 and 3 opened to $135.6 million and $121 million. Shrek 2 had an opening-to-total multiplier just beyond 4.0, but Shrek 3 came in at 2.65, and should have ended the series.


Shrek 4 debuted to $50 million less than Shrek 3, as it had obviously jumped the shark, at least for adults. The shift between the third and fourth Pirates film is not as severe as that of Shrek, but the trend of diminishing returns is the same. Both franchises provided too much product over too little of a time. The problem is that they still make bucket loads of cash for their parent companies, so destroying the brand is an afterthought. For Pirates of the Caribbean fans, I seriously hope Disney thinks long and hard about another Pirates film, and if they do move forward with it, ensure that a quality product is delivered, instead of using the franchise as a cash machine.

There's a good news story in second this weekend, as Bridesmaids turns a strong, $26.5 million opening last weekend, into a super hold this weekend. As expected, the Kristen Wiig comedy proved to be perfect counter-programming against Pirates, and posted a very strong second frame at $21.1 million. Bridesmaids dropped only 20% this weekend, as audience and critical buzz is driving both males and females to this one. All of a sudden, Bridesmaids has a good shot at being one of those small, word-of-mouth driven, $100 million plus pictures. The comedy cost Universal only $32 million to make, and with the additional success of Fast Five, the studio is having a very strong start to the summer. Universal has recently struggled over the summer time, but has two hits already, and still has Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in July, as well as Cowboys and Aliens with Olivia Wilde (I mean Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) in the first weekend of August. After only 10 days, Bridesmaids already has a haul of $57.5 million, and could be the sleeper of the summer.

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