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On Stranger Tides Trailing Previous Pirates of the Caribbean Sequels

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Penélope Cruz
Penélope Cruz, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

May 25 update: With Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides passed the $100 million milestone at the North American box office on Tuesday, May 24, after adding $6.1 million according to figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

After five days out, On Strangers Tides’ domestic total stands at $104.3 million. For comparison’s sake: in 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End passed the $100 million milestone on its third day out (not including its Thursday evening revenues); the previous year, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest had collected $100.3 million on its second day out.

On Strangers Tides’ foreign total: $286.5 million, or close to 74 percent of the film’s worldwide cume.

May 23: Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris, is doing remarkably well in limited release. Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Léa Seydoux, and Tom Hiddleston, Midnight in Paris collected $599,000 at six theaters, averaging an outstanding $99,834 per location.

That’s not only the best per-theater average of 2011, but also the best debut-weekend average of a Woody Allen movie since time immemorial, i.e., B.M – or before Manhattan (1979), as that’s where Box Office Mojo’s opening-weekend list ends.

Even adjusting for inflation (using Box Office Mojo’s chart), back in 1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo, one of Allen’s best-received efforts, averaged $84,205 at 3 locations. In 1995, Mighty Aphrodite, which would earn Mira Sorvino a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, collected $31,049 per site at 19 locations. Manhattan averaged $52,450 at 29 locations. (Note: All things being equal, the higher the number of theaters, the lower the per-theater average.)

A few more comparisons: Midnight in Paris earned nearly four times more than You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’s $160,000 – also at six sites – on its debut weekend in September last year. At four theaters, The King’s Speech averaged $88,863 in November last year.

According to Box Office Mojo, Midnight in Paris boasted the 16th highest weekend per-theater average among movies in limited release since 1982. (Most of those on the top-ten list are costlier, special screenings of Disney movies.)

Dreamgirls, Brokeback Mountain, Precious, and Red State (at a single location) are the four non-Disney, non-animated releases ahead of Midnight in Paris. The list, of course, hasn’t been adjusted for inflation.

At no. 2 following Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids grossed $20.9 million – down a modest down 20 percent – in North America this past weekend (May 20–22) according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo.

Starring Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids passed the $50 million milestone domestically on Saturday. Total to date: $59.3 million. Cost: $32.5 million. The Universal release features Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, Rose Byrne, and Jill Clayburgh.

At no. 3, Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, drew $15.45 million (down 55 percent). Total: $145.4 million. Worldwide: 392.36 million. Cost: $150 million. Tom Hiddleston now has two movies among the top twelve, the other being Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

At no. 4, Fast Five, starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jordana Brewster, drew $10.57 million (down 48 percent). Total: $186.16 million. Worldwide: 506.16 million. Cost: $125 million (official); $175 million (nonofficial).

Fast Five is now the top 2011 movie at the worldwide box office, having just surpassed Rio. Its box office reign shouldn’t last very long, however, as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides should hit that mark within the next ten days or so.

Fast Five was followed by Scott Charles Stewart’s Priest, which pulled in $4.8 million, down a whopping down 68 percent, at no. 5. The horror/thriller stars Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, and Lily Collins. Total: $23.8 million. Worldwide: 61.4 million. Cost: $60 million.

May 23: Starring Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, the Rob Marshall-directed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides underperformed at the North American box office this past weekend (May 20-22), grossing $90.15 million according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. That’s about $15m-$25 million less than a number of prognosticators – that includes distributor Walt Disney Pictures – had been expecting.

Even so, On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, had the best domestic opening weekend of 2011, beating Fast Five‘s $86.19 million. That says it all about moviegoers being desperate for “original” fare on the big screen. It also says quite a bit about On Stranger Tides’ relatively weak hold on audiences – considering that 46 percent of the film’s box office take originated at costlier 3D houses. (Fast Five didn’t have that box office enhancing luxury.)

For comparison’s sake, in late May 2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End collected $114.7 million (not adjusted for inflation) on its debut weekend, not including $13.24 million earned on Thursday evening. In early July 2006, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest earned $135.6 million (not adjusted for inflation) on opening weekend.

Last year, Tim Burton’s 3D extravaganza Alice in Wonderland, also starring Johnny Depp, debuted in early March $116.1 million.

Obviously, on the domestic front On Stranger Tides will perform more modestly than the previous Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (and Alice in Wonderland). Even so, Disney – which reportedly shelled out $250 million for the film (several early reports had placed the budget at $150 million) – is probably already drafting more of the same for Pirates 5. After all, On Stranger Tides is doing extremely well overseas, having collected an estimated $256.3 million in its first five days, thus breaking the record established by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince‘s $236 million two years ago.

Costlier 3D prices surely helped. Additionally, currency fluctuations may also have played a role here, as in a number of countries the US dollar is weaker than it was two years ago.

On Stranger Tides’ top market was Russia/CIS ($28.6 million), where Johnny Depp showed up at the premiere. Next in line were China ($20 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($19.5 million), Germany ($19.4 million), Japan ($18.2 million), France ($14.8 million), South Korea ($12 million), Italy ($11.5 million), Australia ($10.3 million), Spain ($10 million), Mexico ($9.8 million) and Brazil ($6.1 million).

I should add that nearly 68 percent (approx. $654 million) of the box office grosses of At World’s End and more than 60 percent ($642.9 million) of the Dead Man’s Chest grosses originated abroad.

On Stranger Tides is currently playing at 4,155 North American theaters, including 2,747 3D locations, among them 256 IMAX houses. Assisted by costlier 3D/IMAX ticket prices, its weekend per-theater average was $21,697.

May 21 afternoon

I should add that On Stranger Tides’ Friday figure includes $4.7 million from Thursday midnight screenings. Despite inflation and costlier 3D/IMAX ticket prices, On Stranger Tides should end up with $90 million or whereabouts for the weekend – or $15–$25 million less than some pundits had been expecting.

Though On Stranger Tides will obviously perform more modestly than the previous Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (and Alice in Wonderland), Walt Disney shouldn’t have to worry too much, as, much like its Pirates predecessors, the film is doing extremely well overseas. I should note that nearly 68 percent (approx. $654m) of the box office grosses of At World’s End and more than 60 percent ($642.86m) of the Dead Man’s Chest grosses originated abroad.

On Stranger Tides is currently playing at 4,155 North American theaters, including 2,747 3D locations, among them 256 IMAX houses. Assisted by costlier 3D/IMAX ticket prices, its Friday per-theater average was $8,424.

This more “modestly budgeted” Pirates of the Caribbean sequel reportedly cost $150 million. (Take that figure with a boulder of salt, though there have been complaints about the film’s lackluster special effects – which probably means, relatively speaking, a more modest budget than those for the previous sequels.)

May 21 early morning: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opening with a mere $90 million at the North American box office despite costlier 3D ticket prices? That’s a possibility – though not necessarily a probability – according to Deadline.com.

According to Finke’s sources, the Rob Marshall-directed On Stranger Tides, which stars Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, and Geoffrey Rush, is expected to gross $36 million on Friday – including the already reported $4.7 million from Thursday midnight screenings. That would mean an opening between $90–$100 million.

Anyhow, even the latest Johnny Depp adventure grosses only $90m, that will still be the biggest opening weekend of the year. Which, as I’ve mentioned before, says a lot about audiences being eager for “originality” when they go to the movies.

May 20

Starring Johnny Depp, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, and Oscar winners Penélope Cruz and Geoffrey Rush, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – minus Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom – opened in North America at midnight Thursday, earning an estimated $4.7 million at 2,210 locations according to Box Office Mojo.

That’s considerably more than Thor‘s $3.3 million, but considerably less than, say, Iron Man 2‘s $7.5 million. According to Box Office Mojo’s Brandon Gray, “a direct comparison to the last Pirates movie, At World’s End, was not available, because that picture had pre-midnight Thursday evening previews (which grossed $14 million), but Dead Man’s Chest had a midnight opening that raked in $9 million at around 2,100 locations.”

Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Nine), On Stranger Tides has generally received negative reviews from U.S. critics.

Overseas, On Stranger Tides debuted in 10 territories on Wednesday, collecting an impressive $18.5 million. After adding 27 markets on Thursday, the fourth sequel in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise took in $25.7 million that day.

According to Walt Disney Pictures, On Stranger Tides’ $44.2 million two-day box office take – $10.3 million of which in Russia alone – was up 10 percent from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. At World’s End went on to earn a whopping $654 million internationally.

This weekend, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is expected to gross between $105–$115 million (including Thursday midnight screenings) in North America. Bridesmaids and Thor will be vying for the second spot, with each movie taking in anywhere between $16–$20 million.

Besides the United States and Canada, On Stranger Tides is opening in Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, India and other territories today.


Penélope Cruz Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie image: Peter Mountain | Walt Disney Studios.

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