PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES Clears $346 Million in International Launch

     May 22, 2011

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I’m gonna do us all a favor by not using the words matey, or scalliwag in this article.  I won’t be referring to the box office take of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean sequel as “booty,” either.  I’ll just tell you that On Stranger Tides has earned the highest first-weekend total of any release of 2011, with an estimated $90.1 million from 4,155 locations (over $346 million worldwide).  Then I’ll make with the equivocating, savvy?

Title Weekend Total
1 Pirates 4 $90,100,000 $90.1
2 Bridesmaids $21,100,000 $59.5
3 Thor $15,500,000 $145.4
4 Fast Five $10,630,000 $186.2
5 Rio $4,650,000 $131.6
6 Priest $4,600,000 $23.6
7 Jumping the Broom $3,700,000 $31.3
8 Something Borrowed $3,425,000 $31.4
9 Water for Elephants $2,150,000 $52.4
10 Madea’s Big Happy Family $990,000 $51.7

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-international-posterNot spotted in these seas since 2007’s At World’s End, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sailed back into theatres on Friday and grabbed a solid $4.7 million from midnight screenings.  That beat the $3.8 million Fast Five realized from its late-night previews three weeks back (though On Stranger Tides had a nice theatre-count advantage over Vin’s crew in that race).  Cumulatively, Pirates 4 made an estimated $35 million on Friday – the highest single-day of 2011.  Assuming that attendance would rise from Friday to Saturday – as four-quadrant popcorn pics usually do – On Stranger Tides should have come close to the $100 million Disney had predicted for its first domestic weekend. Instead, they came up short at $90.1 million.

To be clear, that figure still makes Pirates 4 the highest domestic debut of this very underwhelming year.  I’m just saying the win could have been more decisive.  In fact, it’s only $5 million more than 2011’s former number one, Fast Five, earned in its three day debut.  Once again, the latter pulled off its victory in fewer theatres and without any performance-enhancing 3D help.  So what happened?

First of all, attendance didn’t go up on Saturday.  Yesterday’s estimated gross actually fell 8.6% below Friday’s.  That is fairly troubling when you consider that half of the film’s 4,155 locations featured higher-priced 3D tickets.  At 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews for On Stranger Tides have been pretty weak; but that didn’t stop At World’s End from breaking records when it opened this week back in 2007.  Besides, CinemaScore gave Pirates 4 a B+.

So, once again we see that 3D is not the buried treasure studios once believed it to be – at least not on these shores.  Following the course set by Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had an early global debut – and found international audiences far more welcoming.  From 70 markets, Pirates 4 took in $256.3 million, crushing the $216 million start of At World’s End.  The film’s total global cume already stands just below $350 million – a blessing considering that On Stranger Tides cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million to make and another $150 million to market.

Pirates 4’s international booty (sorry, couldn’t help myself) is also good news for Disney as the studio has no chance of a repeat number one performance next weekend.  Memorial Day will see the release of two potential blockbusters: the sequel to Kung-Fu Panda and The Hangover Part II.  In Hangover-related news, this weekend the R-rated chick-flick Bridesmaids managed to outdo its male-skewing predecessor with an incredible hold of 80% of its first weekend grosses.  With a ten day total just under $60 million, Bridesmaids may not make it onto the list of all-time R-rated releases, but it has already far exceeded  expectations while paving the way for more movies about women who belch and fart.  It’s what the Women’s Movement was all about, really.

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