Box Office Report

Sunken Treasures

''Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'' easily sails in at No. 1, but falls short of breaking the weekend box-office record set by ''Spider-Man 3''

WALKING THE PLANK? Pirates 3 's three-day haul may disappoint some, but Depp and Co. can still smile about setting a new four-day standard
Image credit: Stephen Vaughan
WALKING THE PLANK? Pirates 3's three-day haul may disappoint some, but Depp and Co. can still smile about setting a new four-day standard

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! On this holiday, we take a brief break from our barbecues and games of ultimate frisbee to learn how in box office land there are records...and then there are records. Case in point: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which easily opened at No. 1, blowing away the competition like a cannonball through a galleon's hull. The franchise flick earned $115.1 mil over the weekend's three-day (Friday to Sunday) span and $142.1 mil over the four-day (Friday to Monday) holiday, according to early estimates. If you add in Thursday evening's shows, the film's total take stands at $156.1 mil.

Okay, great. Good on Disney, for uncovering a treasure at the multiplex, as expected — particularly because POTC: AWE debuted in more theaters (4,362) than any other movie in history. Of the numbers that I mentioned above, the studio's favorite has got to be that $142.1 mil four-day figure, which far and away outpaces the previous Memorial Day weekend record set last year by X-Men: The Last Stand ($122.9 mil). That's impressive, sure, but for POTC: AWE the truly awesome news basically ends there. Why? Well, because the film's three-day sum, the real measure by which all movie debuts are compared, was a bit soft. Crazy, I know, because $115.1 mil is a ton of doubloons. But consider this: It's merely the fourth-best premiere gross in history, ranking behind those of this year's Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 mil) and Shrek the Third ($121.6 mil) and last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135.6 mil). Even this movie's worldwide opening total of around $334.6 mil trails that of Spider-Man 3 ($381.7 mil). And all of this comes despite the fact that audiences took a greater shine to POTC: AWE than critics did, awarding it a solid A- CinemaScore review.

Think I'm dwelling on records too much? Maybe I am. Most of these marks don't really mean anything — they don't factor in, say, studios' expenditures, to better gauge profitability — and they tend to be quite fleeting, standing only for a few weeks or months. Then again, the Box Office Record is paramount in this day and age. Studios want me to be writing about records. They wouldn't open a movie on which they spent upwards of $400 mil making and marketing in 4,362 venues if they weren't going for the lead-off grand slam. So when they only hit a double (i.e., when POTC: AWE takes four and a half days to gross about what Spider-Man 3 grossed in three days), well, I'm gonna call them on it.

In actual fact, POTC: AWE did contribute to two more impressive benchmarks this weekend. It just had help in doing so. By opening with $115.1 mil, the film joined Spidey 3 and Shrek 3 in making 2007 the first year in which three movies have debuted north of $100 mil. Too, when you add the pirates' domestic bounty to the domestic earnings of all other films this weekend, you get $265 mil — the biggest cumulative weekend ever.

But, as I said, POTC: AWE didn't do that all by itself. Help came from Shrek the Third (No. 2), which brought in $69.1 mil over the four-day frame, and Spider-Man 3 (No. 3), which tallied $18 mil from Friday through Monday. Even some smaller releases lent a hand. While the horror flick Bug opened and died in fourth place, with $4.2 mil and — ouch! — a solid F CinemaScore, Keri Russell's month-old indie comedy Waitress, boosted by strong word of mouth, baked up a sweet $4 mil at No. 5. Further down the list, the imports Paprika and Golden Door enjoyed nice averages ($22,800 and $18,500, respectively) on two screens apiece.

Ah, yes, teamwork, it warms the heart. Almost as much as a bratwurst roasting on the grill. Speaking of which, hey, do you smell something burning? Oh, no! Get back outside to tend to the food, friends! And enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Originally posted May 28, 2007
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