Ahoy, indeed! Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest shattered all sorts of box office records this weekend, opening with $132 million, according to Sunday’s estimates. You know how everybody in Hollywood loves to quote that line by writer William Goldman, ”Nobody knows anything”? Well, it’s safe to say that everybody knew this huge opening was coming. I mean, it sure as heck didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Case in point: me. I’m no rocket scientist (that’s for damn sure!) and I predicted it.
Now, I’m always a bit reluctant to play up box office records, because so often they’re not very special. Studios love saying things like their movie had the top opening for an animated feature on a Wednesday in October, and I don’t think repeating such insincere boasts communicates much — especially, for example, whether a movie is actually doing well. But POTC:DMC opened much, much stronger than any movie ever has, and the marks that it set truly are the real deals. Remember how we went through them all on Friday? Well, they’re all gone. Kaplooie. Buh-bye. Here’s how they stand now:
Best opening weekend: This is one of the most important records out there, and POTC:DMC‘s $132 mil blows away Spider-Man‘s $114.8 mil.
Best opening day and best single day: POTC:DMC earned $55.5 mil in its first 24 hours, on Friday, passing Revenge of the Sith‘s $50 mil.
Best July opening: Obviously, the biggest bow of all time passed the old record in this category, Spider-Man 2‘s $88.2 mil.
Shortest time to $100 mil: POTC:DMC earned $44.7 mil on Saturday, pushing it over the century mark in just two days, breaking a record held by five other movies. I’m thinking this could be like the cinematic version of the three-minute mile — that is, the last major benchmark in this category — because I’m not sure it’s physically possible for a film to earn $100 mil any quicker.
Even I saw all those coming. But here are a few more tidbits to consider. The film averaged a huge $31,945, which is the biggest-ever average for a movie playing wide. That mark is particularly astounding because flicks that score such averages usually have theater counts in the single or double digits, while POTC:DMC played in 4,133 venues, the third-biggest rollout of all time. Certainly, the debut is tops for everybody involved — Disney, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom. As such, it improves upon the $46.6 mil first weekend of its predecessor, 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl … by nearly 300 percent. Critics may have screamed aaargh!, but audiences clearly begged to differ: The movie’s CinemaScore rating was a healthy A-, and, as expected, its audience was almost perfectly divided between men and women, young and old. So it looks like many more doubloons are still to be earned.
All right, time to catch a breath. Inhale. Exhale. Okay. I guess with such a big winner there had to be a loser, and Superman Returns was it. (I’ll spare you any kryptonite puns here, promise.) Sure, the movie came in at No. 2, with $21.9 mil. But that’s a very disappointing 58 percent decline from its premiere last weekend, which only adds insult to Supes’ injury of having all his headlines stolen. His two-week take now stands at $141.7 mil, and, considering that steep decline and the strength of his main competitor, a final sum of $300 mil is all but out of his future now. In fact, a $250 mil gross probably is, too.
Otherwise, POTC:DMC helped boost box office returns all around. The Devil Wears Prada (No. 3) dropped a moderate 43 percent to earn $15.6 mil in its second weekend. Click, in its third weekend, came it at No. 4 with $12 mil, passing the $100 mil mark along the way (its cumulative gross now stands at $105.9 mil). At No. 5, Cars added $10.3 mil to bring its total to $205.5 mil; it’s the fifth Pixar flick to clear $200 mil domestically. And, heck, even the small-release films played strong this weekend: Warner Independent’s pseudo-animated head trip A Scanner Darkly averaged $23,882 in 17 locations, and Miramax’s soccer documentary Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos earned $12,225 in one theater.
Man, so many big numbers! John at Nielsen EDI notes that this was the biggest weekend in movie history, with $217 mil in combined receipts, which dwarfs the previous mark of $188 mil from June 2004. Adds Paul at Exhibitor Relations, this weekend was up more than 45 percent over the same period last year. And I think I have to go decompress now.