''Pirates'' sequel beats even its predecessor. Joshua Rich's weekend wrap-up: ''Pirates'' trumps the box office, again; meanwhile, ''My Super Ex-Girlfriend'' and ''Lady in the Water'' bring in less than expected

By Joshua Rich
Updated July 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Peter Mountain

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On a weekend that many expected would see a tight battle for first place, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest blew away all predictions and stole the top spot once again, easily beating out four new contenders to earn $35 million and bring its three-week total to $321.7 mil. In doing so, POTC:DMC passed its predecessor, The Curse of the Black Pearl, which made $305.4 mil in 2003; it crossed the $300 mil mark in just 16 days, which is a record; and it now ranks as the 16th best domestic grosser in history. My good friend John at Nielsen EDI also notes that five long years have passed since a movie (American Pie 2) last won three consecutive summer weekends. But I know, I know: yada yada, another record, another milestone, blah blah. Enough with the timber shivering. Let’s move on.

The new news this week came further down the rankings. The animated Monster House (No. 2) took advantage of a kiddie-flick lull and enjoyed a strong $23 mil opening — almost exactly in line with the $23.3 mil bow that its motion-capture forerunner, The Polar Express, sported two years ago. Chances are slim, however, that this movie will sprout the same kind of long legs that The Polar Express did (it topped out at a whopping $173.7 mil), a fact made clear by its moderate B CinemaScore rating, which translates as viewer indifference.

Speaking of, if you had told me at the beginning of the summer that M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water would open with a whimper on low buzz and audience apathy, I would have looked at you as if you had just said you see dead people. And yet, it’s true. The fairy tale thriller about narfs and the Blue World debuted at No. 3 with a very disappointing $18.2 mil and a weak B- CinemaScore, neither of which is good news. Even in the Blue World. So what happened? Have we grown tired of the M.N.S. shtick? It’s possible. If you were to graph out the opening-weekend numbers of the director’s last three movies, it would look like a descent steeper than those in the mountains of the Tour de France (congrats, Floyd!): Signs premiered with $60.1 mil in 2002, The Village came in at $50.7 mil in 2004, and then there’s a near-vertical dropoff to this movie. I want to give M.N.S. the benefit of the doubt here, so I’m racking my brain to come up with a positive spin on this. Here’s the only thing I can think of: Among recent movies missing a ”the” in their titles, this one’s first weekend may trail those of Wedding Crashers ($33.9 mil) and Inside Man ($29 mil) — but it beats out For Love of the Game ($13 mil). So, hey, congratulations, M.N.S.!

You, Me and Dupree kept an impressive 59 percent of its crowd, coming in at No. 4 with $12.8 mil, while Little Man dropped slightly behind, taking in $11 mil at No. 5. Those strong holdovers left no room in the top five for the week’s two other wide openers. Buoyed by positive reviews (and a very good A- CinemaScore), Clerks 2 came in at No. 6 with $9.6 mil. That’s not great, but it should please director Kevin Smith, as only his Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back bowed better ($11 mil in 2001). My Super Ex-Girlfriend, meanwhile, faltered at No. 7, making $8.7 mil. Sure, that total is less than $1 mil off from C2, but it’s awfully disappointing considering that MSE-G opened on 552 more screens and didn’t have to overcome a hard-R rating. I suspect this is the last time I’ll be talking about MSE-G.

Episode Recaps

Overall, this weekend was up a healthy 9 percent over the same period a year ago, reports the most excellent Paul at Exhibitor Relations. And, hey, come to think of it, that’s one more thing for team player M.N.S. to cheer about.

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