Ahoy, box office fans! Oh, you were expecting some other kind of greeting here? Not this weekend, mateys. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opened last night and it's guaranteed to finish oceans ahead of its Memorial Day weekend opponents. And given that those other movies include Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3, we should be seeing a lot of cumulative box-office records fall by Monday morning. Don't believe me yet? Well, aaargh! Read on, and then cast your vote for the No. 4 finisher (since the top three are locked up tighter than Keira Knightley's corset) below.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Walt Disney · PG-13 · 4,362 theaters · NEW
Let's not forget: Not so long ago about four weeks, actually, before Spider-Man 3 premiered most of the biggest box-office opening records were held by this film's predecessor. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest debuted last July with $135.6 mil, and it went on to become just the third movie in history to earn more than a billion doubloons worldwide. But will the sailing be as smooth for POTC:AWE? Yes and no. Certainly, the franchise's ongoing popularity, the long holiday weekend, moviegoers' must-see-it-now mentality, star Johnny Depp, and so on, are all in its favor. But the fact that the swashbuckler is playing opposite two titanic rivals, Shrek and Spidey, could sting. And that's not its only debit. While generally negative reviews (the film is scoring a soft 55 out of 100 on Metacritic.com) may not hurt it, two things they're all mentioning will: a nearly three-hour running time and some family-unfriendly subject matter. Then again, all these minuses really stand to do is keep POTC:AWE from hitting $200 mil over the Friday-through-Monday period. Because, obviously, it's still going to rake in a treasure.
Four-day weekend prediction: $181 million
Shrek the Third
Paramount · PG · 4,172 theaters · 2nd weekend
And where will the little ones whose mommies and daddies won't let them see a PG-13 flick go this weekend? Why, there's only one choice. Shrek the Third bowed big last frame ($121.6 mil) and has been going strong throughout the week, earning between $5 mil and $10 mil per day. Already, its total domestic take is nearing $150 mil, and with all those kids opting to spend their day off from school watching Donkey and friends, it should get close to $250 mil by Monday.
Four-day weekend prediction: $82 million
Columbia · PG-13 · 3,723 theaters · 4th weekend
Maybe now, after four weeks, people will finally realize that there's no way that skinny little Tobey Maguire could fill out that big, muscular (computer generated) Spidey suit. Ah well, either way the money will keep rolling in this weekend, bumping the movie right up against the $300 mil domestic mark.
Weekend prediction: $19 million
Lionsgate · R · 1,661 theaters · NEW
This ''psychological thriller'' (read: ''a horror movie directed by Oscar-winning director William Friedkin and starring name players like Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.'') about some folks who go berserk in a motel room has an impressive pedigree and is getting decent reviews (61 out of 100 on Metacritic.com). But, come on, do you really think audiences will consider it anything but another fright flick at a time when horror movies haven't exactly been killing at the box office? And against three of the biggest movies ever? It bugs me to say this, but, um, no.
Four-day weekend prediction: $5 million
28 Weeks Later
Fox Atomic · R · 2,013 theaters · 3rd weekend
They might be zombies, but they sure have been staying alive at the box office, even if grosses (the scary sequel has earned $20 mil so far) have been relatively low.
Four-day weekend prediction: $4 million