Or so it seems after Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest plundered the record books with a $135.6 million opening weekend, swatting Spider-Man's long standing $114.8 million milestone atop the all time chart.
Buena Vista's swarthy sequel marauded over 8,500 screens at 4,133 sites—the third widest debut ever—compared to Spider-Man's 7,500 screens at 3,615 sites, though Pirates' estimated 20.5 million admissions out-paced Spidey by four percent.
Pirates pilfered a trove of records, but the key ones, in addition to opening weekend, were biggest single and opening day and fastest to $100 million. On Friday, Dead Man's Chest raked in $55.8 million (including $9 million's worth of 2,100 midnight showings), eclipsing Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith's $50 million and grossing more in one day than its predecessor, The Curse of the Black Pearl, did in its entire opening weekend. Dead Man's Chest also became the first picture to cross the century mark in two days flat.
That rare crowd pleaser, The Curse of the Black Pearl made Dead Man's Chest the most anticipated picture of 2006. For decades, audiences had been averse to pirate movies—many notorious flops belonged to the genre, including Cutthroat Island and Pirates—but Buena Vista gambled three years ago with a costly movie based on the famous Disneyland attraction. Curse stood out with a mixture of swashbuckling adventure, humor, horror and Johnny Depp's characterization of rapscallion Jack Sparrow, and it ultimately grossed $305.4 million. With Dead Man's Chest, Buena Vista's marketing maintained the spirit of the original.
"The first movie was such a beloved title," said Chuck Viane, Buena Vista's president of distribution. "Jack Sparrow became a household name, and you had this pent-up demand to see the sequel. [Dead Man's Chest] was like the old days where going to the movies was a fun event."
In order to reach record heights Dead Man's Chest appealed across all demographic groups, including an equal gender split. "There wasn't a category that stood out," Viane noted. "It was just a total blend." The studio's exit polling indicated that the audience's assessment was on par with the original with 92 percent rating Dead Man's Chest "excellent" or "very good," and pollster CinemaScore backed that up with an "A-" rating.
The third Pirates picture, At World's End, which was in production simultaneously with Dead Man's Chest in the tradition of the Back to the Future and Matrix sequels, will set sail on May 25 of next year. Combined, the Pirates sequels reportedly will cost $450 million to produce.
Powered by Pirates, the weekend as a whole marked the first time a top 12 has grossed more than $200 million. Overall business was up 46 percent over the same weekend last year when Fantastic Four debuted on top.
Last weekend's high flyer, Superman Returns, was sacked in its second outing, plunging 58 percent. Cut down by Pirates, mixed word-of-mouth and the front-loadedness of the superhero genre, Warner Bros.' franchise resurrection earned $21.8 million for $141.6 million in 12 days—the picture's IMAX theaters, though, were down 27 percent and accounted for ten percent of the weekend gross. By comparison, Warner's previous revival, Batman Begins, descended 43 percent to $27.6 million in its second weekend, albeit opposite far less imposing competition.
• Interview - 'Pirates' Writers Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
• Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
• Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
• 7/6/06 - Scott Holleran: Pirate Movie Roundup
• 6/29/06 - Scott Holleran: 'Pirates of the Caribbean' World Premiere
• 7/11/05 - 'Fantastic Four' Heats Up Summer Box Office
• 5/6/02 - 'Spider-Man' Takes Box Ofice on Ultimate Spin
• All Time Opening Weekends
• Weekend Records Through History
• Fastest to $100 Million
• All Time Aggregated Weekends
• Period Adventures
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, July 9 and was revised on Monday, July 10 with actual grosses.