News

'Pirates' Loot Piles Up, 'Lady' Walks Plank

by Brandon Gray
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
July 24, 2006

It was smooth sailing for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as the supernatural swashbuckler swept up another milestone and handily overwhelmed four new wide releases. Monster House was the best of the sorry lot.

Pirates' booty continued to grow at a record clip, racing past $300 million in 16 days, the fastest in history to reach that mark. That's ahead of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith's 17-day sprint. On the same day, Dead Man's Chest surpassed the final gross of its predecessor, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

With a $35.2 million weekend—the third highest-grossing third weekend ever—Pirates became the first summer movie since Signs in 2002 to spend three weeks at No. 1. Its 17-day tally stands at $321.9 million, which ranks 16th on the all time chart.

Monster House gobbled up $22.2 million at 3,553 theaters over the weekend, which includes around $2.6 million from 163 digital 3-D presentations. "We had hoped to hit the $20 million range, so certainly $23 million is a terrific start for us," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of distribution. Sony's exit polling indicated that 36 percent of the audience was children and 30 percent was parents, with the rest classified as "non-family," and the gender split was close to even.

The $75 million animated feature incorporated the same motion-capture animation process as The Polar Express, and its first weekend was slightly less than that Christmas adventure. However, its appeal isn't as universal, with its thrill-ride tale of a decrepit house that eats people, and is not likely to last as long in theaters. In an odd bit of scheduling, two more computer-animated pictures, The Ant Bully and The Barnyard, will invade multiplexes in the next two weeks, contributing to the genre's glut.

Bryce Dallas Howard in
Lady in the Water
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan made his smallest splash since his Sixth Sense breakthrough with Lady in the Water, his first major feature apart from Disney. Shyamalan's self-described "bedtime story" drew $18 million at 3,235 venues, compared to the $50.7 million debut of his last picture, The Village. According to distributor Warner Bros.' research, 56 percent of the audience was female and 64 percent was under 25 years old, while the verdict from moviegoer pollster CinemaScore was a discouraging "B-."

Both Lady in the Water and The Village, lacking stars, were sold primarily on Shyamalan's name, with references to his previous movies and the promise of mysterious creatures creeping about an isolated location. The problem is that Shyamalan's brand was damaged by The Village, which many detested, after building his name to extraordinary heights with The Sixth Sense and Signs. To recover, more was needed for Lady than a marketing campaign that simply mimicked past successes.

Meanwhile, Clerks II served up $10.1 million at 2,150 locations, a decent start by the raunchy workplace comedy's low budget standards. Writer-director-actor Kevin Smith's brand has not grown beyond a small niche in the years since the first Clerks's modest release in 1994, despite media hype that's been proportionally much higher than the $20 million to $30 million his pictures tend to eke out of theaters.

Uma Thurman in
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
The greatest failure of the weekend, though, was director Ivan Reitman's My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which extracted $8.6 million from 2,702 sites. Distributor 20th Century Fox said that the audience was evenly comprised of both genders and 59 percent was over 25.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend's combination of romantic comedy and superhero antics, handled awkwardly in the marketing, proved a turn-off for followers of either genre—there's never been a successful superhero comedy (outside of family movies) and the sub-genre is characterized by such failures as Mystery Men and Blankman. Making matters worse, Ex-Girlfriend star Uma Thurman's titular character was presented as unhinged and cruel and, hence, not relatable.

The openings were mediocre, but overall weekend business was up eight percent from the same frame last year, when the sci-fi action flop, The Island, was among a weaker spate of debuts.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - 'Monster House'
• 7/17/06 - 'Pirates' Pilfer More Records
• 7/9/06 - 'Pirates' Raid Record Books
• 7/25/05 - 'Island' Deserted, 'Chocolate,' 'Wedding' Take Cake

RELATED CHARTS
Fastest to $300 Million
Computer Animation
Superhero Movies
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, July 23 and was revised on Monday, July 24 with actual grosses.



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