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Yo Ho, Yo Ho! It’s Good to Be a Pirate Overseas

It may be time for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise to walk the plank after all.  The newest edition of Jack Sparrow’s endless international and supernatural shenanigans lost steam this time around. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides made $90.1 million opening weekend, a grand $24 million less than the last sequel. Despite this, an overseas tally of $256 million is a five-day record, and may push the diminishing domestic franchise toward a fifth installment.

What could have contributed to this disappointment at the box office? To start with the title “On Stranger Tides” is too vague. Given the plot summary and marketing, Disney could have picked a more enticing and perhaps more revealing subtitle to attract the audience. This was a movie about the pursuit of the fountain of youth. It involved zombies, mermaids, and the legendary pirate Blackbeard. Anything to do with these elements surely would have grabbed more interest. Consider the previous titles: “Dead Man’s Chest,” “Curse of the Black Pearl,” and “At World’s End.”  They were all appropriate. Though, to be consistent, “At World’s End” is the most watered down of titles and it also did not tie to the central plot, but a merely agonizingly long diversionary subplot.

And it was the third film that really sealed the series into its grave. The last movie was rightfully lampooned; what should have been a fun adventure for the whole family ended up a convoluted mess and at more than two and a half hours long. Audiences were likely wary about a fourth installment and critics affirmed their fears by deeming the entry rotten.

That left room for Bridesmaids to continue its quiet assent on the charts. After spending weekdays at number one, Bridesmaids dropped to number two but made an additional $21 million. It stands just beneath $60 million to date, an admirable feat for a women-led comedy. Other features did well, including Thor and Fast Five. The latter, however, recently crossed $500 million worldwide.

The Top Ten

1.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $90.1M (weekend)…$90.1M (gross)
2.  Bridesmaids - $21.0M…$59.5M
3.  Thor - $15.5M…$145.5M
4.  Fast Five - $10.6M…$186.2M
5.  Rio - $4.65M…$131.6M
6.  Priest - $4.6M…$23.6M
7.  Jumping the Broom - $3.7M …$31.3M
8.  Something Borrowed - $3.4M…$31.4M
9.  Water for Elephants - $2.1M…$52.4M
10. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family - $0.9M …$51.7M

Memorial Day weekend should be epic. Out next weekend are two of Hollywood’s heavyweights. The Hangover Part II, will attempt to rehash its former success at 3,500 theaters while an overweight Panda voiced by Jack Black will arrive in 3,800 cinemas. Both are formidable box office champs. Kung Fu Panda, released in June 2008, generated $60 million opposite a comedy, Don’t Mess With the Zohan. It went on to make $215 million domestic and $416 million internationally.The Hangover opened June 2009 at $44.9 million opposite Land of the Lost and My Life in Ruins. Given comedies don’t transfer overseas very well it only made $190 million in foreign tickets but hit $277 million in the states. The R-rated raunchy comedy was made for only $35 million. But can lightning strike twice in exact, and I mean exact, same place? First sequels are usually the best financially for a studio, while additional sequels taper off (for example “Pirates 4”). Both movies are predicted to push past $50 million. This week, families have an option. Will it be bawdy comedy over the kid friendly mammal? Marketing favors Kung Fu Panda, however, given most have noticed, The Hangover Part II is exactly like its predecessor.

Four locations will have an early look at Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Some hecklers booed the film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but that did not stop the majority of reviewers from deeming the drama a masterpiece. Check it out in expansion; until then it’s between the panda and the party boys.


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