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Battling box-office champs: 'Spider-Man' Vs. 'Pirates'

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Piratespidey_lWow! A public brawl between Sony and Disney! As you may recall, Disney recently crowed that its Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End had earned $404 million worldwide in its first six days of release — a new record, in their eyes. This boast got Sony fuming, as the studio had just claimed that record a few weeks earlier with its own Spider-Man 3. So in an unprecedented move, Sony released a public statement in which they trumpeted some potential irregularities in Disney’s figures. That led the Mouse House to launch a pirate-like broadside in return, refuting accusations of shady accounting and pointing out that the discrepancy — a relatively minor $1.4 million — still gave Pirates the edge.

As a reporter who’s spent the last several years covering the film industry for the trades, I know just how crucial these numbers are to the public perception of both the movie and the studio. Especially a movie that costs a studio upwards of $300 million to make. Weekend grosses affect stock share price, influence the movie’s advertising, and have even become an odds-making subject in Vegas. Sony has long had a reputation for wanting to be first-at-all-costs with their film projects, so it’s not at all surprising that they would go toe-to-toe with Disney. What’s interesting to me is the fact that Pirates, even with a more-than-solid $153 million opening — the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend gross in the U.S. — still couldn’t top Spidey in any domestic record. Which forced Disney to look overseas for a victory.

Hollywood execs are calling for some standardization of international numbers. While that’s unlikely to happen (considering overseas accounting is a quagmire of different opening days and different theater policies), it may force studios to think twice before they breathlessly announce their newest record-breaking films. And with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opening globally on Wednesday July 11, it will be interesting to see how those international numbers get broken down and presented. So, PopWatchers, do you really care how much money a movie makes? Do box-office numbers affect your decision to see (or not see) a movie?