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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

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides box office: ‘Disappointing’ blockbuster sequel

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.

Missing from the On Stranger Tides cast: Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.

Top Five movies

Rounding out the Top Five movies on this past weekend’s domestic box office chart were:

  • At no. 2, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids grossed $20.9 million (down a modest 20 percent on its second weekend). Cume: $59.3 million. Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Maya Rudolph.
  • At no. 3, Kenneth Branagh’s Thor grossed $15.5 million (down 56 percent on its third weekend). Cume: $145.4 million. Worldwide: 392.4 million. Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston.
  • At no. 4, Justin Lin’s actioner Fast Five grossed $10.6 million (down 48 percent on its fourth weekend). Cume: $186.2 million. Worldwide: 506.2 million – the year’s biggest global hit to date (soon to be dethroned by On Stranger Tides). Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson.
  • At no. 5, Scott Charles Stewart’s horror actioner Priest grossed $4.8 million (down an alarming 68 percent on its second weekend). Cume: $23.9 million. Cast: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, and Maggie Q.

May 20–22 weekend box office: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides underperformed in the North American (U.S. and Canada only) market, grossing $90.2 million* according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. That’s about $15–$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 $86.2 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 $13.2 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 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.

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.

(It’s midnight figure was considerably more than Thor‘s $3.3 million, but considerably less than, say, Iron Man 2‘s $7.5 million. At World’s End grossed $14 million (including Thursday evening previews) while Dead Man’s Chest brought in $9 million.)

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

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.)

This weekend, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is expected to gross between $105–$115 million (including Thursday midnight screenings) in the domestic market. After Friday figures came in, expectations were lowered to $90–$100 million.

Midnight in Paris

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.


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

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