Pyrites of the Caribbean
By Leonard Klady
To no great surprise Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides led weekend box office with a not quire six figure estimate of $89.6 million. The industry decided to give the franchise a wide berth; providing clear sailing for the Yo Ho Ho fourth installment.
The closest thing to counter-programming was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris that generated a jaw-dropping $93,830 average from a mere six engagements. On reflection the picture probably should have stepped out with a more aggressive launch in the 25 to 40 screen range.
The rest of the freshmen class stuck to the niches or exclusive runs. And without exception the responses ranged from dull to poor. The best (marked on the curve) of the bunch was the single screen revival of the 1942 British drama Went the Day Well with a box office of $6,400.
Weekend revenues generated slightly more than $165 million that represented a 19% boost from the prior frame. It was also a 10% improvement from 2010 when the debut of Shrek Forever After dominated the scene with a $70.8 million launch.
The fourth chapter on Pirates of the Caribbean high seas didn’t receive a great deal of love from the critics. It stepped out two days early internationally and grossed $45 million prior to the domestic bow. The picture’s early exit polls skewed male (54%) and older (ditto 54% over the age of 25). The studio was also surprised to poll 53% attendance by couples.
But the big surprise was that only 46% of its opening box office derived from 3D and large format engagements that comprised 66% of Pirates initial foray. Had tickets matched the percentage of 3D playdates, the film would have grossed more than $100 million this weekend. A studio spokesman said that he didn’t have an explanation for this but it was something that was definitely being investigated.
The industry has been mulling the prospect of stereoscopic fatigue in the marketplace and up until now the wisdom was that young children were rejecting the 3D glasses. Following on that was the sense that animated films were taking the hit and films appealing to plus 18s would not be affected. That doesn’t appear to be the case on the initial tide of the new release and the answer for the disparate flat/stereoscopic box office might be as simple as the premium ticket price for the latter … not exactly good news.
While Woody Allen films, regardless of quality, have a devoted core audience that translates into torrid initial per screens, great reviews just escalate that factor. Midnight in Paris has enchanted reviewers and despite the pictures more arcane elements could emerge as the filmmaker’s biggest domestic grosser in a decade.
Meanwhile the industry is bracing itself for next Thursday’s sequel face off between The Hangover and Kung Fu Panda. Early tracking favors the R-Rated comedy with some pundits predicting a commercial tsunami approaching $100 million with the cuddly family martial artist the bridesmaid at a not to be sneezed at $60 million.