Third 'Pirates' Sacks Memorial Record

by Brandon Gray
Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
May 29, 2007

Invading more screens (around 11,500) and theaters (4,362) than any picture before it, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End drew a hearty $139.8 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend for a $153 million total including Thursday night previews.

Buena Vista's supernatural swashbuckler shattered the Memorial Day weekend record, eclipsing X-Men: The Last Stand's $122.9 million last year, and notched the fifth-highest grossing opening weekend of all time with its $114.7 million three-day haul.

Casting a slight pallor over its bustling start, At World's End loaded less loot than Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest did last July. Dead Man's Chest snatched $135.6 million on its three-day opening weekend, and this month's other major sequels, Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third, were each bigger than their predecessors out of the gate.

"I think it was hard to expect it to top No. 2 [Dead Man's Chest]," said Chris LeRoy, Buena Vista's senior vice president general sales manager. "Market conditions change so much from one movie to the other. What we wanted to accomplish was to break the Memorial Day weekend record and we're very pleased with that. Spider-Man 3 had a wide open playing field and, though the market expanded to a spectacular degree [this weekend], there was just more competition. I don't like to put too much emphasis on what the opening weekend means."

Among major franchises, the norm is for the third movie to gross less than the second. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars were exceptions, and sequels released in close proximity to each other have suffered in the past, in part due to mixed word-of-mouth for the second movie (The Matrix, Back to the Future). The upshot is that it was unrealistic to expect At World's End to exceed Dead Man's Chest.

A "hail the conquering hero" appeal fueled Dead Man's Chest after the immense good will that the first picture, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, built up. Dead Man's Chest satiated that demand in its $423.3 million run, resulting in less urgency for At World's End. What's more, in its marketing, At World's End looked like the same thing audiences experienced just ten months ago, lacking a clear new dramatic hook.

Overseas, At World's End reached 102 territories over the weekend and captured $251 million in its first week. Including the domestic gross, its worldwide opening through Sunday logged $344 million, the second-largest ever behind Spider-Man 3's $381.7 million.

A scene from Shrek the Thid
Meanwhile, Shrek the Third tumbled 45 percent to a $67 million four-day weekend. That's less than Shrek 2's second weekend, which was down 12 percent to $95.6 million on the same Memorial frame in 2004. Shrek the Third had a somewhat bigger opening than Shrek 2, but it's the nature of sequels to be more front-loaded than their predecessors and Shrek the Third didn't bring anything new to the table to reinvigorate the franchise.

Spider-Man 3 crawled past $300 million on its 24th day of release, which was slower to the mark than Spider-Man (19 days) and Spider-Man 2 (22 days). For the four-day weekend, the webslinger's third movie faded 38 percent to $18.1 million. While it's on track to be the lowest-grossing of the franchise domestically, it's excelling overseas. Through Sunday, its foreign total grew to $501 million, highest of the series, for a worldwide tally of over $800 million.

Also opening, Lionsgate's horror thriller Bug was a blip with $4 million at 1,661 sites.

Expanding to 510 locations, Waitress dished out a decent $4 million. Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy has grossed $6.5 million in 27 days of limited release.

'Pirates of the Caribbean' Special Briefing

Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
5/26/07 - 'At World's End' Bustling on Opening Day
7/10/06 - 'Pirates' Raid Record Books
5/30/06 - 'X-Men' Marvels with Memorial Record (Same Weekend, 2006)
5/31/05 - 'Star Wars' Edges Out Computer Critters, Secondhand Convicts (Same Weekend, 2005)

4-day Weekend Box Office Results
3-day Weekend Box Office Results
All Time - Memorial Day Weekends
All Time - Opening Weekends
Pirate Movies

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, May 27 and was revised on Tuesday, May 29 with actual grosses.

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