5 Ways to Prep
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
By George Rose
May 25, 2017
There was once a time when the Pirates franchise was considered quality. And by “once a time” I mean “there was only one time.” That time was in 2003 when the first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, came out. It blew away expectations and opened to $46 million, proving it was possible to turn a lame Disney ride into a movie. It continued to shock the world and eventually earned more than $300 million domestically and over $650 million worldwide. Exceeded expectations like that are what make following movies so much fun. Yay for Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley for all becoming ridiculously famous as a result!
And then in 2006 the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, came out and broke the opening weekend record with $135 million. The movie wasn’t as good as the first but went on to earn $423 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide, one of the first few films to break that barrier. These are the numbers a sequel to a beloved first film should earn if they hope to impress me, which I imagine all movies want to do. 2007 is where things get tricky, though. With the third Pirates, At World’s End, we have a few different factors we’re working with...
1) This is the third movie in a franchise at a time when the first sequel does well but the trilogy ender fails to achieve the same success, either critically or financially or both. There are several examples of this such as Spider-Man, Shrek, X-Men, Transformers and The Matrix. All those trilogies are from the new millennium and performed similarly; the first does better than expected, the second does better than the first, the third suffers from fatigue and declining quality and earns less than the second. This wasn’t the early ‘90s when movies opened small and earned five times that. The new average was a 3.0 multiplier, anything over $500 million worldwide was a success and $1 billion was the ceiling for all but a few.
2) Pirates wasn’t your traditional sequel. Most movies took three year breaks between films. Nowadays, you get two-year breaks because people grow up so fast with the internet and your target audience can quickly evolve past their prior interests. However, in the early 2000s, a new idea was born: film sequels together. The Matrix had done it. Lord of the Rings did it but for the whole trilogy. You save on production costs that way, but you are stuck with whatever quality the third is bound to produce without time to evaluate the performance of the second. It worked for Lord of the Rings but didn’t for the Matrix. Pirates 2 kinda blew so Pirates 3 also sucked. It made a bunch of money but failed to crack $1 billion. That’s less than Pirates 2, contracts were up and the franchise ends.
… but wait, there’s more! That was soooooo 15-20 years ago. We’re in the 2010s now! Franchise reboots and prequels and “fourth films that have different casts than the first three but it’s not a reboot or prequel but distant cousin kind of sequel.” Thanks to the boom in international markets and a new generation of moviegoers, Hollywood keeps bringing back old things and tries to make them new. The fourth Pirates, On Stranger Tides, came out in 2011 with Johnny Depp the only star returning. It earned “only” $241 million domestically, the lowest total of the four, yet somehow earned over $1 billion worldwide. Transformers 4 proved the fourth-quel theory as it was also the only movie in its series not to make more than $300 million domestic but still made over $1 billion. Thanks, China, for saving the US economy AND Hollywood from destroying itself! Foreign markets save the day!