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Weekend Box Office: Pirates 4 Grosses $90m, Bridesmaids Holds Strong, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris Astonishes in Limited Bow

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BRIDESMAIDS
AP
Just ten years ago next weekend, we saw pundits studio executives hand-wringing over the 'mere' $75 million four-day gross of Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor.  For some reason (oh, it's a three-hour period love story... it's EXACTLY like Titanic!!), studio executives were expecting a $100 million four-day total.  Nevermind that such a number had never been achieved before.  As I've written elsewhere, 2001 was the year that opening weekends went crazy, where $50 million became the new $35 million and $60 million became the new $40 million.  In the last nine years (starting in May 2002 of course), we've had 25 films with $100 million+ four-day totals and 18 films with $100 million+ three-day totals.  I bring this up because once again we are faced with a Disney blockbuster that is fighting off the assumption of failure because its opening weekend didn't approach record levels.  For the record, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened with $90 million this weekend.  That may not be as huge as the last two sequels, but it's a fine haul for a franchise that pretty much everyone agrees is washed up.  Let this be a lesson to Disney's Chuck Viane (who actually predicted a $100 million+ weekend): it's your job to LOWER expectations, not inflate them!

The film pulled a decent 2.57x weekend multiplier, with strong kid-driven matinée business leading the way.  It scored a B+ from Cinemascore, implying that movigoers have little-to-no standards.  The film grossed 5.1% of its weekend take from midnight screenings, which is basically the general norm these days.  Obviously the film opened far less than the last two films, which both opened to record numbers.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opened with $135 million in July 2006, breaking the three-day record at the time.  In May 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End grossed $153 million in 4.25 days (it had $13 million worth of Thursday evening sneaks), and its $114 million Fri-Sun haul is still the highest for a film not opening on standalone Fri-Sun weekend.  When you figure in inflation and the IMAX/3D ticket-price bump, On Stranger Tides had significantly lower audience attendance than the last two sequels, or just over half as many tickets sold as the first sequel.  Speaking purely for domestic figures, the likely scenario is similar to last year's Shrek: the Final Chapter, which also opened far lower than its predecessors but had a surprisingly strong hold.  A similar 3.3 weekend-to-final multiplier would give Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides a $304 million domestic finish, or about what the first and third films ended up with.

Worst case scenario?  Well, the movie is terrible and there are no moments that merit repeat business, and Shrek had a pretty weak Memorial Day slate to compete with (Prince of Persia and Sex and the City 2) and a nearly empty third weekend.  Pirates 4 has the one-two punch of the dynamite Kung Fu Panda 2 and yet unseen The Hangover II, plus the opening of X-Men: First Class on June 3rd.  So the 2.7 weekend-to-final multiplier of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End seems more likely, giving the new film a domestic finish of $244 million. Considering that Disney was basically selling nothing more than 'Jack Sparrow is back again', and basically advertising that it was offering a cheaper movie at a more expensive ticket price (the film played in 66% 3D engagements, yet only 44% of the tickets were 3D), they are lucky they opened as well as they did.

Still, as has been the case over the last few years, overseas numbers are carrying the day.  The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film has already grossed another $256 million in overseas dollars (which is a record for overseas openings), giving the film a near-record $345 million worldwide total opening weekend (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had a $393 million worldwide opening two years ago).  So really, let's just move on to a movie whose domestic box office actually matters...  Bridesmaids had an incredible second-weekend hold, dropping just 20% for a $21 million second weekend and a $59 million ten day total.  That's a smaller drop than The Hangover (-27% in weekend two), The 40 Year Old Virgin (-24%), American Pie (-27%), and The Wedding Crashers (-24%).  Unless I'm forgetting something, you have to go back nearly thirteen years for a similar situation, where the R-rated There's Something About Mary dropped just 8% in weekend two.  It's too soon to predict that the Kristen Wiig vehicle will come close to the $175 million total of that Cameron Diaz sensation, but it pretty much guarantees that the funniest film of 2011 will make it to $100 million.  The big test of course will be how it fares against The Hangover II, which opens Thursday.

It also leapfrogged over Thor during the week, something it again achieved this weekend.  Still, weep not for the God of Thunder, as Thor grossed $15.5 million in its second weekend and ended its third weekend with a solid $145 million.  It's already grossed $392 million worldwide.  Fast Five now sits at $186 million domestic, and it crossed the $500 million mark worldwide.  The Beaver expanded to 168 theaters but was DOA, with a $190,000 take for a mere $582,000 domestic total.  The other major story this weekend was the scorching limited debut of Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris.  The film opened on six screens, and grossed a jaw-dropping $96,000 per screen.  That is indeed Allen's best limited debut ever.  It's also the fifteenth-biggest per-screen average ever, the fifth biggest for anything on more than two screens, and the fifth biggest per-screen average for a live-action film.  Wow...

That's it for this weekend.  Join us over Memorial Day, when Paramount/Dreamworks unleashes Kung Fu Panda 2 and Warner Bros releases The Hangover 2 (review Wed night/Thurs morning).  Until then, take care, keep reading and commenting.

Scott Mendelson