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Weekend box office: Depp charge

Posted by Ty Burr  May 29, 2007 10:30 AM

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"I don't like to put too much emphasis on what the opening weekend means." -- Buena Vista senior vice president/general sales manager Chris LeRoy, on "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

I love this quote. The only time you will ever -- I mean ever -- hear such words issue from the lips of a Hollywood studio VP is when a movie hasn't performed up to expectations. So what were the expectations for "POTC: AWE"? At 11,000+ screens in 4,362 theaters over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, nothing short of galactic domination.

Instead, the movie made "only" $142 million -- the best Memorial Day opening ever, and one in which one movie took 55% of all ticket sales. Make that $156 million if you factor in the Thursday night preview showings, but $115 million if you're counting only the traditional Friday/Saturday/Sunday weekend.

That three-day take, interestingly, is a good deal less than the $137 million that "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" made in the same span last year, and less than "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek the Third" made this year. It's possible there are studio suits this morning who are feeling abject failures for having engineered merely the fourth highest three-day opening of all time. Look at it this way, fellas -- you matched the 2006 gross domestic product of the Marshall Islands. There's no place to go but up.

Also bereft this weekend: Teenage girls hoping Elizabeth would somehow end up with Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom enthusiasts expecting Will to come through without a scratch, and those looking for narrative continuity. Anyone who understands what freeing Calypso actually accomplished, please send me an e-mail. I tried explaining to my editor but ended up more confused than ever.

Why didn't "POTC: AWE" perform better? (And, again, let's stress that this thing printed money all weekend.) A number of factors; pick the one you like best. Three-quel fatigue after Spidey and Shrek. Pretty good weather over the long weekend (well, not on the Franconia Ridge trail where I was on Sunday when it dumped all over me and the family... but you're not interested in that). A 168-minute runtime that cut into the number of times the film could be shown. And (here's the one I favor) a sense that this series had peaked commercially and zeitgeist-wise with #2, and that #3 would be more (or less) of the same.

Still, add in the international box office for the new "Pirates" and the total through Sunday is $335 million. That brings us up almost to the 2006 GDP levels of Vanuatu.

In other box-office news, "Bug" opened to $3.3 million. Ashley, we hardly knew ye. "Waitress" expanded to 500 theaters and got a nice bump up for a nice little movie. The wonderful Irish musical drama "Once" played well at 20 frames. (Note obscure pun.) And, for pity's sake, the middle-aged-biker comedy "Wild Hogs" washed up at the No. 10 spot like a whale carcass at a beach party. Isn't that thing on DVD already?

More box office whittling at Box Office Mojo and Leonard Klady.

P.S. In my Friday review of "Once," I described Glen Hansard's character as a subway busker. I goofed: Dublin does not have a subway. Now please stop sending me e-mails.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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