Weekend Box Office (July 7 - 9, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Box office records were shattered by Johnny Depp and his companions as the much-anticipated adventure sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest exploded into theaters with the biggest opening weekend in Hollywood history. Former champ Superman Returns was hit hard and fell sharply in its second weekend. However, Pirates managed to expand the overall marketplace with most holdovers not suffering large declines. For the first time in box office history, the top ten smashed through the $200M mark.

Movie fans piled into their local theater to see the new Pirates sequel spending a jaw-dropping $135.6M in ticket sales, according to final studio figures, over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period. The figure was a solid $3.6M higher than originally estimated on Sunday. It was the film industry's largest debut ever beating the four-year-old record set by Spider-Man in May 2002 which launched with a $114.8M bow. Dead Man's Chest averaged a stunning $32,817 from 4,133 theaters which was slightly higher than the webslinger's $31,769 opening weekend average from 3,615 locations.

Pirates broke a seemingly endless amount of other box office records over the weekend too. The PG-13 actioner set a new mark for opening days with its $55.8M Friday take beating the $50M Thursday bow of Star Wars Episode III from last summer. The high seas adventure also set new marks for Disney. The studio's top debut had been 2004's The Incredibles with $70.5M and its biggest live-action opening had been last winter's The Chronicles of Narnia with $65.6M. Pirates debuted with as much as those two hit openings combined. It also grossed more in its first three days than Superman Returns amassed in its first eleven days.

The Friday gross included a stunning $9M in sales from Thursday night when theaters began their first shows at midnight. By comparison, the new Superman pic sold about $4M in night-before tickets for showtimes beginning earlier at 10pm. Upfront demand was intense for Pirates even though it was not a film based on popular literary material like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Spider-Man. Saturday saw an understandable drop of 20% to $44.4M and Sunday fell only 20% to $35.4M. The swashbuckling sequel also became the first film in history to cross the $100M mark in only two days.

Expectations going into the weekend were about as high as could be, but Pirates still surged past them. Dead Man's Chest managed to reunite the cast and crew of the wildly popular 2003 megablockbuster including Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The first film opened on a Wednesday in July of that year and grossed $46.6M over the weekend and $70.6M over five days.

Stellar word-of-mouth carried it to the lofty $305.4M mark domestically and a fantastic $654M worldwide. That was enough to prompt the studio to move forward with two sequels. The concluding chapter, called At World's End, is set to open over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend next May three weeks after Spider-Man 3 and just one week after Shrek 3. Look for some more industry records to get broken during that sensational month.

A number of factors contributed to the boffo bow of Pirates. Signing Depp, who is not known for doing sequels, was the first step. His compensation package was a worthy investment for the studio which now has a trilogy that could gross over $2 billion worldwide. Disney's marketing was strong, but not over-the-top. The studio generated plenty of excitement without over-hyping the film. Reviews from critics were mixed, however audiences had their minds made up ahead of time anyway so they did not matter. Plus, Pirates had incredibly strong appeal with women which made the film play to a very broad audience. Disney reported that the opening weekend crowd was evenly split between men and women and connected with all age groups.

Also amazing about the opening of Dead Man's Chest was that it soared to its incredible level even with all the competition already in the marketplace. Films opening in May or November ahead of all the other big summer and holiday releases can monopolize the box office and be the only game in town. But Pirates faced four other films that each sold over $10M in tickets this weekend. Those movies combined did a stellar $60M worth of business. By comparison, Spider-Man's next four foes took in just $21M when it opened with none hitting double digit millions.

Pirates of the Caribbean also docked in other ports around the world this weekend planting its flag as the market champ in all of them. The United Kingdom led the way with a scorching $25M debut and was joined by $9M from South Korea, and $8.2M from Australia. Captain Sparrow looted an estimated $46.6M from only seven territories this weekend. Not wanting to battle the World Cup, Disney has spread its openings around the world throughout the rest of July. Robust grosses are expected once again this summer with the new Pirates tale hoping to make off with even more treasure than its predecessor.

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

After flying into the top spot over the extended Fourth of July holday weekend, Superman Returns took a beating in its second frame falling 59% to $21.8M. The drop was larger than sophomore declines seen in recent years by other big-budget action films opening on the Wednesday before this particular holiday session. Last year, War of Worlds fell 53% to $30.5M, 2004's Spider-Man 2 dropped 49% to $45.2M, and 2002's Men in Black II declined by 53% to $24.4M. The explosive opening of Pirates certainly took its toll on Superman since there was considerable overlap in the audiences for the two films.

After twelve days in theaters, Superman Returns has captured $141.6M and is running 14% behind the pace of War from a year ago which took in $165M over the same period on its way to $234.3M. Even last summer's super hero film Batman Begins enjoyed a stronger sophomore weekend gross than Superman with a 43% drop to $27.6M. At its current pace, the Man of Steel might still be able to reach the $200M mark domestically, although it won't be easy.

Given the enormous production budget of more than $240M for Superman Returns, international sales will be crucial to Warner Bros. on its road to profitability. The Clark Kent adventure took in an estimated $9.4M over the weekend from 14 markets falling by 53% from its $20M international opening last weekend. With an offshore cume of $35.8M to date, the worldwide tally climbed to $177.4M for Superman Returns. Now that the World Cup is over, the studio will release its super hero extravaganza this coming week in major markets such as France, Spain, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

Moviegoers not interested in big-budget action adventures spent their money on comedies which filled up the next four spots. Meryl Streep led the funny flicks with $15M for her hit The Devil Wears Prada which dropped only 46% in its second weekend. It was a solid hold for the Fox title which has now grossed an impressive $63.1M in just ten days. Budgeted at $35M, Devil should power its way to the neighborhood of $110M.

Adam Sandler's Click dropped 40% to $11.9M in its third weekend to raise its total to $105.8M making it the seventh $100M blockbuster for the comedian. After 17 days, the Sony film is running about even with the studio's Sandler-Nicholson pic Anger Management which stood at $103.5M after the same amount of time on its way to a final cume of $135.6M. Click is enjoying solid mid-week business thanks to the summer play period so a final cume in the area of $140M seems likely. Sandler also joins Tom Cruise as the only stars with $100M+ hits in each of the last five years. Cruise's streak spans the last seven years though, and Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson will have the opportunity to match Sandler's feat later this year.

Disney's big non-pirate summer entry Cars followed in fifth place with $10.7M in its fifth lap. Off only 26%, the Pixar animated film once again enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten and pushed its cume past the $200M mark to $205.9M. Overseas, Cars collected an estimated $14.6M to raise the international total to $65.1M and global tally to $271M.

Dropping 49% to sixth place was Paramount's wrestling comedy Nacho Libre with $3.3M. The Jack Black pic upped its cume to $73.8M and looks to match the $81.3M of his 2003 hit School of Rock. The Lake House slipped 41% to $2.9M pushing its total to a decent $45.6M for Warner Bros.

Universal's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift took in $2.5M, down 43%, giving the street racing sequel $57.4M to date. Rounding out the top ten were the kidnapping actioner Waist Deep and the relationship comedy The Break-Up with grosses of $1.9M and $1.6M, respectively. Totals stand at $19.2M and $114.3M.

Opening in limited release with sparkling results was Richard Linklater's animated drug drama A Scanner Darkly which bowed to $391,672 from only 17 theaters. The Warner Independent release averaged an encouraging $23,040 per location and played in eight markets. Keanu Reeves stars in the R-rated picture along with Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder who got to open a film on the same day as her ex-fiance Johnny Depp. His film was a bit bigger. On Friday, Scanner expands to about 190 theaters nationwide.

Miramax opened its soccer documentary Once in a Lifetime in one Manhattan exclusive engagement and grossed $9,805. The story of the New York Cosmos will widen in the coming weeks with the distributor hoping that World Cup fever will spark some interest with Americans.

One summer tentpole knocked another out of the top ten this weekend. Sony's The Da Vinci Code grossed $1.3M, off 45%, and upped its sum to $213.2M. After a seven-week run in the top ten, the $125M religious thriller still held up well and looks on a course to finish with about $217M from North America. Internationally, Code has grossed a stunning $515M making it the biggest overseas blockbuster of 2006 so far.

The top ten films grossed an astounding $207.4M which was up a dramatic 53% from last year when Fantastic Four debuted at number one with $56.1M; and up a stunning 57% from 2004 when Spider-Man 2 remained in the top spot with $45.2M.

Compared to projections, Pirates sailed well ahead of my $104M forecast.

For NEW reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean and A Scanner Darkly, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when You, Me, and Dupree and Little Man both open.

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

# Title Jul 7 - 9 Jun 30 - Jul 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC $ 135,634,554 4,133 1 $ 32,817 $ 135,634,554 Buena Vista
2 Superman Returns 21,815,243 52,535,096 -58.5 4,065 2 5,367 141,642,667 Warner Bros.
3 The Devil Wears Prada 15,014,778 27,537,244 -45.5 2,882 2 5,210 63,110,544 Fox
4 Click 11,921,513 19,919,470 -40.2 3,458 3 3,448 105,842,811 Sony
5 Cars 10,734,082 14,569,356 -26.3 3,379 5 3,177 205,908,484 Buena Vista
6 Nacho Libre 3,339,828 6,600,962 -49.4 2,262 4 1,476 73,814,240 Paramount
7 The Lake House 2,854,457 4,811,192 -40.7 2,420 4 1,180 45,630,219 Warner Bros.
8 The Fast and the Furious 3 2,549,855 4,485,585 -43.2 1,868 4 1,365 57,434,625 Universal
9 Waist Deep 1,901,151 3,431,691 -44.6 864 3 2,200 19,207,640 Focus
10 The Break-Up 1,621,345 2,990,680 -45.8 1,175 6 1,380 114,278,860 Universal
11 The Da Vinci Code 1,321,762 2,425,158 -45.5 1,012 8 1,306 213,210,326 Sony
12 An Inconvenient Truth 1,172,984 1,690,035 -30.6 562 7 2,087 15,050,824 Par. Vantage
13 Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties 1,027,020 2,162,661 -52.5 1,288 4 797 24,754,492 Fox
14 X-Men: The Last Stand 920,542 2,207,609 -58.3 832 7 1,106 231,333,947 Fox
15 A Prairie Home Companion 851,490 1,421,929 -40.1 653 5 1,304 16,826,950 Picturehouse
16 Over the Hedge 650,268 1,261,089 -48.4 758 8 858 149,732,375 Paramount
17 Poseidon 483,633 1,096,212 -55.9 180 9 2,687 59,784,214 Warner Bros.
18 RV 454,116 511,010 -11.1 398 11 1,141 68,778,253 Sony
19 A Scanner Darkly 391,672 17 1 23,040 391,672 Warner Ind.
20 Mission: Impossible III 312,684 491,007 -36.3 418 10 748 133,009,689 Paramount
Top 5 $ 195,120,170 $ 121,162,128 61.0
Top 10 207,386,806 139,306,434 48.9
Top 20 214,972,977 151,040,726 42.3
Top 20 vs. 2005 214,972,977 144,784,085 48.5

Last Updated : July 10, 2006 at 7:15PM EDT

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