Joshua Rich: ''Pirates'' should ride a perfect storm of hype, higher ticket prices, and the third-widest opening ever to a number of box office records this weekend

By Joshua Rich
July 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Disney

The summer’s biggest movie, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man?s Chest, finally comes out this weekend — and let me tell you, my timbers are shivering! Hype is high, anticipation is tremendous, fresh competition is sparse, its 4,133 theater count is the third biggest ever, and a number of box office records may just be in view of Captain Jack Sparrow’s telescope.

So it seems like a good time to give a little rundown of the lofty marks that we could be talking about on Sunday. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, here’s where they stand now:

Best opening day and best single day: $50 million for 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith

Best opening weekend: $114.8 mil for 2002’s Spider-Man

Best July opening: $88.2 mil for 2004’s Spider-Man 2

Shortest time to $100 mil: 3 days (shared by five films, including this year’s X-Men: The Last Stand, which bowed with $102.8 mil in May)

I could go on. Point is, this one’s going to be big. In industry speak, it’s a ”four-quadrant” movie, meaning that it appeals to everybody — men and women and old people and young people — and that kind of thing is rare indeed. (Never mind all the weak reviews it’s been getting — remember, this is a franchise inspired by a theme park ride, so its audience is unlikely to be deterred by film critics.) Anyway, a Hollywood insider recently told me that this is the first film in a long time that could get close to Titanic‘s $600.8 mil take. But before we go that far, let’s simply look at POTC:DMC‘s potential through the prism of the big record out there, Spider-Man‘s $114.8 mil opening. When you consider that this film will premiere on some 500 more screens than Spidey did in 2002 and that ticket prices have certainly increased since then — and, for that matter, that this movie has just as much hype, if not more — well, the mark is in clear sight. And I do think POTC:DMC will make it to $117 mil by the end of the weekend, and we’ll have a bunch of new records to talk about then.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot: Superman Returns is still in theaters and still earning the big bucks. Its opening last weekend was a little softer than expectations, of course. But, really, what are expectations other than guesses? Educated guesses, sure, but still guesses. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on the movie just because it came in under what people were hoping it would do. It still earned a ton, and people still seem interested in it. Supe’s mid-week take has remained strong, and, at the very least, he’ll benefit from overflow traffic as showings of POTC:DMC sell out. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt: His movie will drop a respectable 40 percent to earn $31 mil against a super-tough box-office foe.

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