Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What does the opening weekend say about Pirates 3?

Here's a movie critic who finds justification in Pirate's opening weekend.

So when does $114 million lose an argument?
When its predecessor made $135 million in 229 fewer theaters.
We got our share of threes last month, didn't we? First Spider-Man 3, then Shrek the Third, then this thing. Each set a box office record. Spider-Man 3 set the weekend box office record ($151 million), Shrek the Third set the weekend box office record for animated features ($121 million) and Pirates 3 set the weekend box office record for Memorial Day ($153 million). Remove Thursday night's previews and Monday's numbers, however, and you get Pirates' dinkier $114 million total. I know: "dinkier."

Even so, when one of your franchise movies underperforms you have questions to answer.

Box Office Mojo attempted to answer some of them for Pirates 3 . They wrote, "Among major franchises, the norm is for the third movie to gross less than the second." (Except Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, etc. etc.) The second movie, they wrote, "satiated" demand, and marketing made the third film look like "the same thing audiences experienced just ten months ago."

I.e., "2" performed too well and "3" wasn't marketed well enough. It had nothing to do with the quality of the product.

Here's my thought. Maybe it did have something to do with the quality of the product. Maybe quality matters, just a little. Just enough to not set box office records.

By the way: I'm not referring to the quality of Pirates 3. I'm referring to the quality of Pirates 2.
Before I go any further I will admit that Dead Man's Chest was not as good as Curse of the Black Pearl. That said, it does not account for the drop in box office between the two. Pirates 2 made a billion dollars worldwide. More than 100 million people paid to see it. You don't get numbers like that unless a movie has good word of mouth and a lot of repeat business.

So why didn't World's End do as well or better? There are several reasons that have little to do with relative quality.

First - last year was the year of the pirate. It seemed like every store and catalog had some sort of pirate-related merchandise. Most of it wasn't licensed. They just slapped a skull and crossbones (or crossed swords) on something. By the time Pirates 2 came out it was an event. Disney couldn't do that again so soon. It's been less than a year. The pirate boom is dying out and it is too soon for a new one.

Then there was timing. When Pirates 2 came out, its main competition was a disappointing Superman movie. Pirates 3 had to compete against two other successful franchises.

Then there is the problem of a holiday weekend. It throws off the traditional Friday-Sunday count. People are not as likely to go to movies on Memorial Day weekend.

Oh, and the Thursday night take does count. That's money that the movie would have brought in over the weekend otherwise.

Plus, Pirates 3 beat last year's X-Men 3 handily. That really argues against Lundegaard's point since X-Men 2 was better than X-Men 3.

What really counts is how much the movie brings in total, not what weekend it brings it in. Pirates 3 is approaching a half billion world-wide. It may be that it will not make as much as Dead Man's Chest, that Disney saturated the market by releasing the two too close together. It doesn't prove much overall.

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