'Pirates' Sequel Shatters Box Office on Opening Weekend

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LOS ANGELES -- "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" dug up $90.1 million in box office treasure in its first weekend in North America, at the low end of forecasts but still the biggest debut of any film this year, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

The fourth release in the blockbuster Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) series, and the first in 3-D, plundered an additional $256.3 million in overseas ticket sales to set a record as the highest international movie opening of all time, Disney said.

The previous overseas benchmark was set in July 2009 by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," with $236 million.

All told, the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" film grossed an estimated $346.4 million worldwide during its first few days in release.

The global tally included a record $16.7 million grossed from showings on about 400 IMAX Corp giant-format screens around the world, Imax said.

Setting sail with lackluster reviews but little competition in 4,155 U.S. and Canadian theaters, "Pirates" easily topped the final Friday-through-Sunday domestic slate ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The newest "Pirates" adventure pairs returning star Johnny Depp in his signature role as Captain Jack Sparrow with Oscar winner Penelope Cruz, a newcomer to the franchise. The film also co-stars another Academy Award winner and "Pirates" veteran, Geoffrey Rush, along with Ian McShane making his first appearance as Blackbeard.

The comedy "Bridesmaids" ranked a distant No. 2 in its second weekend with $21.1 million in U.S.-Canadian ticket sales.

Rounding out the top five were Marvel's superhero drama "Thor," grossing $15.5 million in its third weekend, the hot-rod thriller "Fast Five" with $10.6 million in its fourth weekend, and the 3-D animated "Rio" with $4.7 million after six weeks.

While "Pirates 4" marks the highest opening for any film at the North American box office so far this year, surpassing the $86.2 million grossed in late April by "Fast Five," it landed at the low end of domestic projections.

"On Stranger Tides" fell short of debut receipts posted by each of the first two "Pirates" sequels -- $135.6 million in 2006 for "Dead Man's Chest" and $114.7 million a year later for "At World's End."

The very first film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," grossed just $46.6 million domestically in its first weekend in 2003.

Poor reviews never help, but the weaker commercial showing for "On Stranger Tides" in North America compared with the last two "Pirates" films may have more to do with a general softness in the current marketplace. Some momentum may also have been lost in the four years between "Pirates 3" and the new film.

With the arrival of "On Stranger Tides," the entire franchise has now amassed over $3 billion in theatrical receipts collectively worldwide, Disney said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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