Just weeks ago, ”Pearl Harbor”’s hard-to-avoid marketing campaign made attendance seem like a civic duty. But as the pricey film has been overshadowed by ”Shrek” as this summer’s big draw, can ”Pearl” still become a box office gem? Once expected to pass $200 million in domestic box office easily, Michael Bay’s World War II epic — with an estimated $240 million price tag, including marketing — was dry-docked at $144 million at press time. (And roughly half of that will be kept by theaters.) Gitesh Pandya, editor of boxofficeguru.com, says it ”has a very long road to travel on before it reaches profitability.”
Blaming poor word of mouth and a lack of repeat customers, Pandya estimates ”Pearl” needs a worldwide gross of $500-600 million to break even. But Christopher Dixon, entertainment analyst at UBS Warburg, calculates it’s already profitable, given potential income from video, DVD, cable, and TV — and projects ”Pearl” will likely end up $75 million in the black. For his part, Disney Motion Pictures Group chairman Dick Cook dismisses the naysayers: ”Box office analysts [are] terribly wrong….” [We’ve] got all summer to play.” Bombs away.
Additional reporting by Daniel Fierman