Pirates 4 could be the first $100m spun as a disaster. It looks like it will open down from the last one by about 15%… or about what 3 lost from 2. And the drop of domestic gross of about 25% from 2 to 3 is unlikely here (it would be down to about $230m). Disney can’t be jumping up and down over this launch – still Top 20 all-time amongst Friday openings – but it’s not a disaster.
I do think this will be the poster child for the next era of 3D, which is to say, it’s now just another price point and combined with studio efforts to disincentivize the theatrical window, one has to conclude that 3D pricing is now pushing away ticket buyers in some cases. Roughly 8 million people will go see Pirates 4 in theaters this weekend for an average of about $12 a pop. Would 10 million have gone to see it at $8.50 a pop? Is there anything that sticks with an audience after seeing this film – or most films – in 3D instead of 2D? Only the empty space in the wallet.
3D is a good tool for some things and a great marketing tool for a few. Smart people have known for years that the price point on movies was an important component in keeping things movie forward. When Average Joe and Joanne figured out that 3D was just a way to bump up the ticket price by 25% and not giving them 25% more pleasure… when it occurred to them that there was a new 3D “event” every other week (or more often), the bloom fell off the rose.
The international market is usually 6 months – a year behind us in smelling a rat. But they will figure it out too.