Summer movies: the winners and the losers -- We break down the box office hauls of ''Pirates'', ''M:I-3'', ''Click'', and more

By Dave Karger
Updated July 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Superman Returns

  • Movie

Forget caped crusaders, computer-animated critters, or A-list Scientologists. This summer, it was a stumbling, slurring, mascara-wearing pirate who saved Hollywood. Thanks in great part to the phenomenal performance of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (powered by Johnny Depp’s irresistibly slimy Capt. Jack Sparrow), this season’s box office numbers are up 7 percent from this point last summer. Depp, of course, had assists from some other unlikely warm-weather stars (The Devil Wears Prada‘s Meryl Streep comes to mind), while a few big-ticket entries — Mission: Impossible III and, fittingly, Poseidon — sank. We’ve picked the winners in the six biggest box office matchups of the summer.

The Megasequels
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest absconded with all sorts of records. The list: biggest single-day gross ($55.8 million), fastest $100 million earner (two days), largest opening weekend ($135.6 million), and heftiest 10-day haul ($258.4 million). ”You always set yourself a goal, and obviously that was one that we wanted,” says Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane of erasing Spider-Man‘s $114.8 million opening weekend from the record books. ”[But] we were surprised by how much we beat it.” Most tellingly, Pirates earned more in three days than Mission: Impossible III did in 11 weeks. While Pirates is on track to become only the fifth film to cross the $400 million mark in its initial release, Tom Cruise’s M:I-3 will top out at about $135 million, well below the $181 million and $215.4 million the first two Missions earned. When it comes to Cruise, maybe all press isn’t good press after all.

WINNER Pirates of the Caribbean

The Superheroes
Most preseason hype was focused on Superman Returns and its fan-favorite director, Bryan Singer, who set off a game of dominoes after he left X-Men: The Last Stand, forcing Fox to tap superhero neophyte Brett Ratner. And while Superman earned stronger reviews, its five-day Fourth of July weekend resulted in an $84.6 million debut, compared to X3‘s $122.9 million opening tally over a four-day Memorial Day holiday. Whereas most franchises peter out over time, X3‘s $232.3 million gross surpassed the $157.3 million and $215 million takes of the first two. ”One of the things that make sequels feel unsatisfying is when it’s clear to the audience you’re hedging your bets and counting on another installment,” says Twentieth Century Fox president Hutch Parker (take that, Pirates?). ”We decided that to realize our story line fully, we had to be willing to kill some characters off and take it all the way.” And set up for Wolverine and Magneto spin-offs, of course.


Episode Recaps

The Cartoons Usually, revenge is sweet. But for Disney, it was mighty tumultuous. For the last two years, the family-friendly empire saw its animation crown usurped by DreamWorks, whose megahits Madagascar and Shrek 2 topped Disney’s Chicken Little and The Incredibles, respectively, at the box office. But now, after almost losing its partnership with Pixar, the studio has finally reclaimed the top ‘toon slot with Pixar’s Cars. Though its $60.1 million opening weekend was $10 million behind those of the last two Pixar flicks (Finding Nemo and The Incredibles), its $220 million-and-counting tally dwarfs that of DreamWorks’ Over the Hedge, which has virtually stopped growing at $150.9 million. ”We were all impressed by the $60 million opening,” Viane claims. ”As you know, some people didn’t think it was big enough. But our dream would be to catch X-Men if we could for the summer.” That should happen in the next three weeks.

Superman Returns

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 157 minutes