Spidey Who? Pirates Loot Box Office Records

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for July 7-9, 2006

By John Hamann

July 9, 2006

*He's* king of the world.

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I have been waiting a very long time for this day. I've waited through Star Wars films, the Matrix sequels, Harry Potter movies galore, and a Spider-Man sequel. Today, as predicted by BOP's Reagen Sulewski on Thursday, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest broke Spider-Man's record for biggest opening weekend of all time, providing some much-needed relief for a summer box office riddled with disappointments. Today is the franchise's third birthday, and it will have 132 candles on its cake.

The number to remember is no longer Spider-Man's three-day figure of $114.8 million. The new number to hold onto is $132 million, the number recorded over this historic three-day weekend by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Yes, the Disney flick sold an estimated $132 million in ticket sales between Thursday at midnight through Sunday, setting a record that many thought would actually fall much earlier. Dead Man's Chest secured its huge debut gross after opening on 4,133 venues, producing an awesome venue average of $31,938. Spider-Man opened in early May 2002, and earned its $114.8 million from only 3,615 venues, so the webslinger also loses the venue average record, which was formerly at $31,769. That may change tomorrow when actuals are released, but I don't think Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer will be too upset if that occurs. For Disney, they finally have a huge opener, something this storied company has failed to do over the last few years. Previously, their biggest opener was The Incredibles, which grossed a comparably average $70.5 million over its opening Friday-to-Sunday in 2004. In fact, a rough count shows only three of the top 50 openers (Narnia, Pearl Harbor, and Signs) were from Buena Vista films, the distribution arm of the Disney empire. To think that Dead Man's Chest almost doubled the largest-opening Pixar film boggles the mind. This is an especially stunning achievement; after the genre-destroying Cutthroat Island bombed so badly ten years ago ($10 million domestic gross versus a $92 million budget), people thought we would never see a pirate movie again.

Let me lay out for you what happened this weekend (but for a better description read David Mumpower's excellent Friday Box Office Analysis). Pirates 2 got off to a hugely successful start with sold-out showings around the country at midnight Thursday. Sources have said that those midnight screenings grossed as much as $12 million, a record in itself, and a figure that many films would be happy with over their entire weekends. Those midnight showings are added to the Friday figure, which came in at a record $54.9 million (similar to Superman's three-day figure, and way more than MI3's); however, if we remove the midnight grosses from that figure, we have an opening day of about $43 million. We learned this morning that the Saturday gross was about $41.8 million, which is an excellent number compared to Friday, as it is difficult to maintain these huge grosses. That means the estimate for Sunday is about $35.2 million.

Using that $43 million Friday figure, we know now that Dead Man's Chest had a strong internal multiplier of 2.8 on its blockbuster Friday, which is excellent for a few reasons. This is a sequel, and usually sequels are heavily frontloaded, with fans of a franchise gobbling up tickets on Friday, leaving the film to wane over the rest of the weekend. Also, in summer, kids are out of school, freeing them up to see a film like Dead Man's Chest on Friday afternoon, instead of being forced to wait until Saturday afternoon. From the multiplier, I would say that Pirates 2 had a lot more customers than just the rabid fan-base, which is seen in a film like X3 or Spider-Man 2. A 2.8 internal multiplier for a $43 million Friday also indicates that audiences are liking what they are seeing, and are spreading extremely positive word-of-mouth.

For the stars of Pirates, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley, this is a lottery win. For Depp, this only increases his superstardom and gives him further clout in Hollywood. Depp's fantastic characters (Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Captain Jack Sparrow) make for big money, not only theatrically, but on home video as well. For Bloom and Knightley, this film (and the next one, of course) picks up some once promising, but recently troubled, careers. Bloom has appeared in Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, Elizabethtown and Ned Kelly – all domestic disappointments, save maybe Troy - since his last Lord of the Rings film. For Knightley, things have been even worse since Bend It Like Beckham and the first Pirates flick. She has appeared in domestic flops like Domino, King Arthur, and The Jacket, and needed to make a big splash this weekend. Reviews for Dead Man's Chest started strongly as the week began, but began to fade once the daily newspapers got their digs in. At RottenTomatoes.com, 150 reviewers weighed in, with 78 positive reviews and 72 of the negative variety. The best news for Disney, though, is that the users of the site seem to like it (77% fresh), and despite not being critically adored, you've still opened your film to $132 million.

Although they weren't willing to say it in the press, Disney was looking for a huge hit here. They invested $225 million to make Dead Man's Chest, and despite shooting the majority of both films at once, the second feature is still looking to cost over $200 million. Considering this feature could earn $200 million in a record six days, and the first Pirates of the Caribbean grossed more overseas than it did domestically, I don't think Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer are going to have to worry.

Compared to Spider-Man's record-breaking opening gross, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest had to work a lot harder to cash in. When the original webslinger flick opened, it did so in early May, before other blockbusters had established their turf. The second place film that weekend was The Scorpion King, and it grossed only $9 million in its second frame. Fellow openers Deuces Wild and Hollywood Ending were very quiet, giving Spidey all the room he needed to knock down the record. Pirates wasn't as lucky. Four other films this weekend earned more than $10 million, so Pirates had to deal with some significant competition. Dead Man's Chest was also a half-hour longer than Spider-Man at 150 minutes, which would put pressure on exhibitors to match that amount of showtimes for both movies. I hate to belabor the point, but this is a special day in box office history. The top ten films earned over $200 million, a new record, and it's all thanks Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Think what the third film in this series, set for next year, will find over its opening weekend.


The rest of the top ten had to deal with the onslaught of Pirates this weekend. The top two films from last weekend were hurt the most, as all the big venues went to Pirates. The second weekend holdovers (Superman, Prada) were relegated to the cheap seats this weekend, so their weekend-to-weekend drops are bigger. The other films in the top ten were already in the cheap seats, so if anything they were helped by Dead Man's Chest, as sold-out shows could have been beneficial to them. Let's have a look, but you may want to shield your eyes because its going to get ugly for Superman.

The second weekend of Superman Returns pretty much seals his fate in box office history, as this Superman will always be remembered as losing badly to Captain Jack Sparrow. The second weekend for the Man of Steel came in at only $21.9 million, off a huge 58%. Even if Pirates 2 keels over and dies next weekend, it's still going to take $60 million out of the box office pie over Superman's third weekend. So far, the $250+ million production has earned $141.7 million, and its chances of earning $200 million domestic don't look very good. Warner Bros. blew it with this version of Superman. The scheduling and marketing departments should take a long look here at what went wrong, because it has gone very, very wrong. Pirates' second weekend will easily beat Superman's first weekend, so it's back to the drawing board for the folks at Warner Bros.

Third spot is The Devil Wears Prada, last weekend's surprisingly strong second place finisher. It lost the headline war to Pirates this week, and the fashion film was hurt. It grossed $15.6 million, off 43% from last weekend. The good news, though, is that this cost only $35 million to make, and has so far grossed $63.7 million for the folks at Fox. $100 million is still very possible for Prada, something that absolutely no one saw coming.

Click takes fourth place, and spends another weekend earning more than $10 million. Click earned $12 million over its third weekend, crossing the $100 million mark on Saturday. It was off 40%, and has now earned $105.9 million. Click cost Sony and Revolution Films about $80 million to make, and will finish in the usual Adam Sandler territory of about $140 million.

Crossing the $200 million mark was Cars, which also had a $10+ million weekend, its fifth consecutive. Cars grossed $10.3 million this weekend and was off only 29%. Its domestic total now sits at $205.5 million. This Pixar effort is definitely the poor sister in the family, but hopefully they can rebound with their next effort.

The big drop-off comes this weekend as we transition from fifth to sixth, as the number six film this weekend is Nacho Libre, with a weekend gross of only $3.3 million. Jack Black's wrestling comedy dropped 49% this weekend, and has brought its total up to $73.8 million. Nacho looks to finish with about $85 million for Paramount against a budget of only $35 million.

Seventh spot goes to The Lake House. The Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock romantic drama earned $2.8 million in its fourth weekend. It was off 41% compared to the previous frame, and has now earned $45.6 million. Too bad for Warner Bros. that their Lake House didn't have any Pirates staying there.

The eighth, ninth and tenth spots barely even register on the box office radar this weekend. Eighth goes to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which grossed $2.5 million, was off 45% and now has domestic cume of $57.4 million. Waist Deep was ninth with $1.9 million. It was off 46%, and has a gross so far of $19.2 million. Tenth goes to The Break-Up, which grossed $1.6 million, drops 45% and now has a total of $114.3 million.

In limited release this weekend, the very cool-looking A Scanner Darkly opened. The Richard Linklater film that uses the rotoscoping animation technique debuted at only 17 venues, but earned a large $406,000, giving it an outstanding venue average of $23,882. The Keanu Reeves starrer is from Warner Independent Pictures, and should begin to platform to a theatre near you next weekend.

Overall this weekend, box office is up, up, up – thanks, of course. to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The top ten films this weekend earned a ludicrous $204 million, obliterating last year's $135.7 million, and as far as I can tell, sets a new record for a top ten total. Congratulations to the folks at Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer, and the cast of Dead Man's Chest. This is a remarkable achievement.

Top Ten for Weekend of July 7-9, 2006
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 4,133 New $132.0 $132.0
2 Superman Returns 4,065 -58% $21.9 $141.7
3 The Devil Wears Prada 2,882 -43% $15.6 $63.7
4 Click 3,458 -40% $12.0 $105.9
5 Cars 3,379 -29% $10.3 $205.5
6 Nacho Libre 2,262 -49% $3.3 $73.8
7 The Lake House 2,420 -41% $2.8 $45.6
8 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift 1,868 -45% $2.5 $57.4
9 Waist Deep 864 -46% $1.9 $19.2
10 The Break-Up 1,180 -45% $1.6 $114.3
11 The Da Vinci Code 1,012 -42% $1.4 $213.3
12 An Inconvenient Truth 562 -31% $1.2 $15.0



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