Weekend Box Office (May 25 - 28, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Movie fans filled up multiplexes around the world giving Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End the largest global opening in box office history. In North America, the latest Johnny Depp adventure broke the record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend debut ever while still competing with fellow big-budget threequels Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3. Ashley Judd's new horror film Bug was mostly ignored but Keri Russell's indie comedy Waitress made a splash expanding into national release and climbing all the way up to number five despite playing in just a fraction of the theaters of the other big holiday offerings. Overall, moviegoers spent over $244M on tickets for the top ten films over the long four-day weekend making it the highest-grossing Memorial Day frame ever.

Disney launched its assault on the summer box office with At World's End which easily topped the charts and grossed $139.8M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday frame, according to final studio figures, and a total of $153M since its early opening on Thursday night with 8pm shows. The amount was almost identical to the $153.8M that its predecessor Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest collected in its first four days last July. That film did not have an early Thursday debut and was not over a holiday weekend, but faced less competition in the marketplace. At World's End's four-day figure set a new record for the holiday easily beating the $122.9M of X-Men: The Last Stand from a year ago.

Over the Friday-to-Sunday period, the new Pirates tale took in $114.7M making it the fifth biggest opening weekend ever behind Spider-Man 3 ($151.1M), Dead Man's Chest ($135.6M), Shrek the Third ($121.6M), and Spider-Man ($114.8M). At World's End's journey began on Thursday with $13.2M from shows beginning at 8pm. Friday saw $42.9M in ticket sales starting from 12:01am showtimes, Saturday dipped 12% to $37.7M, Sunday eased another 10% to $34.1M, and Monday dropped by 27% to $25.1M. The new Pirates set sail in a record 4,362 theaters in North America and averaged $26,303 over three days, $32,050 over four days, and $35,085 overall including Thursday.

At World's End reunited the cast and crew of the first two films in the series including actors Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. Critics were harsh on the new installment and especially thought it was too long at 2 hours and 48 minutes. The pic's B+ grade from over 19,000 users of Yahoo Movies suggests that fans are moderately satisfied with the latest Jack Sparrow tale.

Across the world, Disney claimed the all-time opening record with an estimated haul of $404M in ticket sales over six days from Wednesday through Monday. The first handful of countries bowed the effects-driven pic on Wednesday and by Saturday it was playing in 102 international territories where it looted an estimated $251M by the end of Monday. That was enough to break the old records set just three weeks ago by Spider-Man 3 of $231M international and $382M global over its own six-day launch.

Be sure to check back all week for daily Pirates box office updates.

Shrek the Third fell sharply in its second weekend and claimed second place with a still-impressive $67M over the four-day weekend. The Friday-to-Sunday tally of $53M represented a disturbing 56% fall from its opening weekend. Shrek 2, which also opened a week before the Memorial Day holiday frame, suffered a more manageable 33% drop over the three-day portion of its sophomore session. Third has not been as well-liked by moviegoers and faced tougher competition with Pirates launching. After 11 full days of release, the latest ogre tale has commanded $217.3M and seems on course to finish its North American journey in the neighborhood of $330M.

Swinging down to the number three position was the month's first threequel, Spider-Man 3, with $18.1M over four days. The super hero saga's three-day portion dropped a troubling 52% but the cume after 25 days is now a towering $307.8M. The new Spidey crossed the $300M mark on Sunday after only 24 days and now sits at number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of Independence Day which took in $306.2M in 1996, when ticket prices were much lower. A final North American haul of about $340M still seems likely. The latest webslinger sequel also pulled in $19.1M over the three-day weekend internationally to push the overseas gross to $499M. That puts the global gross at a stunning $806M and counting. By next weekend, the Venom pic will become the top-grossing Spider-Man film ever in terms of worldwide box office.

May's trio of hotly anticipated threequels has definitely generated lots of cash at the domestic box office with a combined cume to date of $678M. Corresponding totals for the top three May releases by Memorial Day over the past three years were $384M for last year, $394M for 2005, and $481M for 2004. However, moviegoers are not going crazy over any of them and seem to be left with lukewarm feelings which is hurting the long-term prospects. Many even feel that each is the worst installment in its own trilogy. Second weekend drops were mighty large for Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third and At World's End may play out the same way. In fact, it's possible that none of the big threequels will reach the $350M mark domestically. If ticket buyers start feeling sequel fatigue this early with so many familiar characters and stories, it could pose a problem to the many summer sequels still on tap for the three months ahead. Films offering something new and fresh may just grab the attention of the public soon.

Lionsgate opened its new horror film Bug in fourth place but was met with a dismal $4M. The Ashley Judd starrer averaged a poor $2,418 from 1,661 sites over four days. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, the R-rated chiller grossed $3.2M and averaged a dismal $1,954.

Fox Searchlight's indie sensation Waitress jumped into the top five this weekend as it expanded from 116 to 510 theaters across the country grossing $4M. The Keri Russell comedy averaged a solid $7,853 over four days and played as the alternative for adult audiences not interested in third helpings of bloated Hollywood franchises. With $6.5M after only its third weekend, Waitress could become a sleeper hit this summer and its high chart position will certainly help it nab more media attention this week. Over three days, the Sundance title grossed $3.1M and averaged $6,031.

The horror sequel 28 Weeks Later ranked sixth with $3.3M over four days to push Fox's total to a decent $24.4M. Disturbia collected $2.4M in seventh place boosting its cume for Paramount to a sturdy $74.9M.

Universal's dramedy Georgia Rule followed with $2.4M as well giving the Jane Fonda-Lindsay Lohan pic a weak $16.8M to date. Moviegoers spent an estimated $1.6M on Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling as their thriller Fracture spent its sixth weekend in the top ten for a $37.2M sum. Disney's comedy Wild Hogs jumped back into the top ten with $1.6M raising its stellar cume to $163.4M.

In the arthouses, Fox Searchlight's musical romance Once expanded and was still a potent player. The Irish film grossed $435,958 over four days from only 20 sites for a sturdy $21,798 average over the long weekend. Cume is now $540,753 and the distributor will widen this Friday into ten additional cities to roughly 60 playdates total.

Miramax saw strong results for the debut of its Italian film Golden Door which opened to $37,947 from a pair of houses. Averaging $18,974 per location, the immigrant tale expands further on Friday.

The top ten films grossed $244.3M over four days which was up 6% from last year when X-Men: The Last Stand opened at number one with a then-record $122.9M; and up 9% from 2005 when Star Wars Episode III remained on top with $70M.

Compared to projections, Pirates opened well below my four-and-a-half-day forecast of $183M. Bug bowed a bit lower than my $6M prediction.

For a review of At World's End and a DVD review of Apocalypto, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Knocked Up, Mr. Brooks, and Gracie all open.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title May 25 - 28 May 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: AWE $ 139,802,190 4,362 1 $ 32,050 $ 153,042,234 Buena Vista
2 Shrek the Third 67,010,012 121,629,270 -44.9 4,172 2 16,062 217,348,470 Paramount
3 Spider-Man 3 18,112,261 29,022,026 -37.6 3,723 4 4,865 307,754,583 Sony
4 Bug 4,015,846 1,661 1 2,418 4,015,846 Lionsgate
5 Waitress 4,005,008 1,081,022 270.5 510 4 7,853 6,522,396 Fox Searchlight
6 28 Weeks Later 3,280,306 5,454,168 -39.9 2,013 3 1,630 24,401,556 Fox
7 Disturbia 2,433,028 3,731,349 -34.8 1,632 7 1,491 74,943,105 Paramount
8 Georgia Rule 2,407,910 3,745,880 -35.7 1,904 3 1,265 16,832,880 Universal
9 Fracture 1,646,761 2,278,362 -27.7 907 6 1,816 37,170,866 New Line
10 Wild Hogs 1,586,929 422,278 275.8 426 13 3,725 163,409,353 Buena Vista
11 The Invisible 1,102,840 1,300,769 -15.2 457 5 2,413 19,211,918 Buena Vista
12 Away From Her 947,459 685,274 38.3 256 4 3,701 2,568,800 Lionsgate
13 Delta Farce 649,713 1,852,193 -64.9 833 3 780 7,341,920 Lionsgate
14 Blades of Glory 643,146 1,091,982 -41.1 317 9 2,029 116,366,996 Paramount
15 Hot Fuzz 636,457 1,291,898 -50.7 462 6 1,378 22,311,585 Focus
16 Paris Je T'aime 550,796 157,504 249.7 58 4 9,496 896,808 First Look
17 Once 435,958 61,901 604.3 20 2 21,798 540,753 Fox Searchlight
18 300 435,414 208,110 109.2 403 12 1,080 209,184,269 Warner Bros.
19 Next 414,505 1,084,974 -61.8 309 5 1,341 17,320,209 Paramount
20 Black Book 411,891 353,136 16.6 172 7 2,395 3,368,552 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 232,945,317 $ 163,582,693 42.4
Top 10 244,300,251 171,397,897 42.5
Top 20 250,528,430 177,398,781 41.2
Top 20 vs. 2006 250,528,430 236,478,083 5.9

Last Updated: May 30, 2007 at 12:15AM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.