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MONDAY AM UPDATE: ‘Pirates 3′ Breaks Global Opening Record

SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Box Office – ’Pirates 3′ Lagging ‘Spidey 3′

SATURDAY AM: There’s huge controversy and confusion on the high seas of the Hollywood studios over exactly how much booty the No. 1 movie in the country Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End looted at the box office Friday. I’m told to rely on this figure: a bountiful $43 million from 4,362 theaters. But Disney’s number is $44.4M. That’s a whole lotta domestic gross receipts, and the biggest Friday which Disney has ever had in its movie history. This will also be the studio’s biggest film weekend. But it wasn’t a single-day record: that still belongs to Spider-Man 3 which scored $59,841,919 on the Friday of its opening weekend, May 4th-May 6th. Some numbers, however, showed P3 with $57+ mil in its domestic treasure chest already, but that’s its cume to date: consisting of $14M from Thursday night showings (though Disney tallied $17M), plus $43M from Friday’s screenings (including midnight screenings of $3M). My box office gurus say P3 is projected to make between $140M-$145M for Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

bloomp31.jpgThis is turning out to be not much of a horse race: Johnny won’t beat Spidey for the biggest 3-day opening weekend in film history at $151M. P3 will comes up short because of its too-long official running time of 2 hours and 48 minutes. Of course, Sony hit SM3‘s debut day hard with virtually round-the-clock screenings of its Webbed Wonder threequel. Whereas Disney decided on a softer opening. The prediction of box office gurus that Jack Sparrow and his crew can set a $200M record for biggest holiday weekend opening (Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday) has been revised downward as well: now the experts believe P3 should make $165M-170M for the four days, still the biggest opening no matter what. (Actually, P3 is enjoying a 4 1/2-day debut!)

p3prem4.jpgI’m just told Pirates 3 has boosted its worldwide gross-to-date to $142.5 million, and set a new record for Disney at the worldwide box office. Now playing in 102 international territories, P3 added $44.4 million on Friday for a new cume of $85.5 million, which also stands as the studio’s record.

Friday’s per screen average was a thriving $12,792 even on the big getaway day of Memorial Weekend. I’m told that seven theaters in the U.S. did over $100,000 for the day: the top 2 were in Salt Lake City (go figure) and the 3rd was Hollywood’s famed El Capitan Theatre (which had a 3:15 am showing this morning that sold out.) So go, Johnny, go!

bug_bigteaserposter.jpgIn 2nd place, Shrek The Third dropped a monster 64% Friday (Shrek 2 fell only 28% on the same day), making $14M from 4,172 venues. But Saturday matinees are where this kind of kiddie fare cleans up, so expect a 3-day FSS of $50M-$55M and a 4-day holiday weekend of $65M-$70M. Spider-Man 3 was the No. 3 movie taking in $3.7M Friday from 3,723 playdates as its cume approaches the big $300 domestic gross mark. Projected are a 3-day FSS of $15.5M and a 4-day holiday weekend of as much as $20M to finish the weekend at a whopping $310M. And let’s not forget Spidey’s international gross which should pass $500M this weekend. As for the rest of the Top 10,  Pirates took a lot of wind out of their sails. Lionsgate’s new horror film Bug, directed by The Exorcist‘s Billy Friedkin, opened with $1.1M Friday from 1,661 theaters. That could mean a $3.7M 3-day FSS and a $5M 4-day holiday weekend. Fox Searchlight’s Sundance Film Festival find Waitress, starring Felicity‘s Keri Russell, jumped up to No. 5: starting its 4th week out, it earned $760K Friday from 510 venues for what should be a $3.2M FSS and a $3.7M 4-day holiday weekend. waitress_posterbig.jpgFox Atomic’s 28 Weeks Later zombie pic eked out $725K Friday from 2,013 playdates starting its 3rd week out. Expect a $2.6M FSS and a $3M 4-day holiday weekend. Latest cume is $21.8M. DreamWorks / Paramount’s tween-teen thriller Disturbia hangs in at #7 starting its 7th week out: it squeezed $550K Friday from 1,632 theaters for a new cume of $73M. Should score a $1.8M FSS and a $2.3M 4-day holiday weekend. In 8th place, Universal’s chick flick Georgia Rule with Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan made $500K from 1,904 venues for a new cume of $14.9M going into its 3rd week. Expect only a $1.8M FSS and $2.5M 4-day holiday weekend. No. 9 was New Line’s Fracture, barely registering with $300K from 907 playdates for a disappointing new cume of $35.8M. Projected is an FSS of $1.3M and a 4-day holiday weekend of $1.5M for the beginning of its 6th week out. bringing up the rear is Disney’s The Invisible thriller, hardly worth mentioning with only $200K Friday from 457 theaters starting its 5th week out.  

p3prem6.jpgFRIDAY AM: Disney just announced to me that Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End debuted to north of $17 million for its Thursday night showings in North America and already uncovered $58 million in worldwide box office booty in its first two days of pre-weekend release. Mark Zoradi, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Marketing and Distribution, said the film was virtually sold out in theatres across the U.S. on Thursday night. Overseas, the film grossed a swashbuckling $12.1 million from 13 territories on Wednesday, and brought in an additional $29 million from Thursday showings in a total of 39 territories. Pirates 3 expands to 102 international markets today, including such major countries as Japan, Mexico, Spain, and Brazil. Exit surveys across the United States for this threequel gave the film among the highest numbers in Disney’s history and placed it well above comparable scores for the previous two films in the trilogy. According to a recent survey of thousands of ticket-buyers by Fandango, which sells movie tickets to more than 15,000 U.S. screens, 75% of Pirates 3 moviegoers are female. So Johnny Depp hasn’t lost his appeal! Responding to the opening night reactions and anticipated demand for the film, exhibitors everywhere were adding seats.

THURSDAY PM: One thing is clear: Johnny Depp and crew are gonna be HUGE! I’ve been following the early summer horse race all month, and now it comes down to this photo finish: more theaters vs longer playing time. Tonight’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End screenings start at 8 pm in what is the widest North American release ever of 4,362 theaters. ”Get ready for more records,” one expert told me today. I’m hearing about many sell-outs throughout the country. Predictions are for the Disney pic to do between $15M and $20M tonight alone. Yowza! But I hear the studio has instructed the various reporting agencies like Rentrak and Edi, and even some theater circuits, not to give out numbers to anyone but Disney… Yeah, things are that competitive. Still, it’s understandable, and even industry standard, why Disney doesn’t want anyone else to have access to the grosses for their movie except them. I’ll try to have the earliest word tomorrow on tonight’s exhibition. My box office gurus are expecting Disney’s P3 to make $200 million over the next 4 1/2-days. But the benchmark for comparison to Sony’s Spider-Man 3 is what P3 does Friday-Saturday-Sunday: Can Johnny beat Spidey’s $151 mil at the box office? True, the Disney threequel has an ass-numbing running time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. Not only does that limit the number of times per day the pic can be shown in theaters, it’s also an audience buzz-kill. But let’s not forget Johnny’s incredible appeal here and internationally. (See my Go, Johnny, Go from last summer. Hard to believe that, for years, Entertainment Weekly wouldn’t put Johnny Depp on its cover, claiming he didn’t sell magazines.)

For the first time, this Pirates pic is opening day and date overseas in 100+ territories so expect a huge foreign gross as well. Still, Sony’s threequel broke a bevy of records — biggest single worldwide day, biggest international opening and biggest worldwide opening. Many of the opening-frame records were broken by astounding margins, thanks to virtually round-the-clock showings during its Friday-to-Sunday debut. At the end, the Friday-to-Sunday gross receipts totaled $151 million domestic, $282 million foreign from 107+ countries, for a total of $383 million global. I say it’ll probably be Spidey 3 to win the three-day race and Pirates 3 to place when the last opening dollar is counted.

Meanwhile, it was also a race to the wire for Pirates: At World’s End to finish all its spectacular special effects. What’s arriving to theaters are virtually wet prints since the pic wasn’t concluded until the very last minute. Seems the ending (two ships trapped in an oceanic funnel of fear) gave the CG experts fits because the work was so painstaking. Unfortunately, finishing fast and late always adds to the cost, which I’m told is north of $300 million. And that’s just what Disney is admitting to privately, so add at least another $50 mil to approach the truthful figure. But no one’s sweating this summer of the high rollers: Pirates has a unique opportunity to make a lot of that back its opening weekend.

p3prem3a.jpgThis time around, Chow Yun-Fat adds to the threequel’s froth as does Rolling Stone Keith Richards (who was banned by Disney from publicizing the pic after his I-ate-Dad’s ashes joke.) But if poster theft is any indication, Clear Channel outdoor advertising reports more P3 one-sheets featuring Orlando Bloom have been taken. Since neither producer Jerry Bruckheimer nor Disney execs reined in director Gore Verbinski or Johnny or the rest of his crew, the film is a total romp. The good news is that this Pirates 3 completes the story arc begun by the previous two. Even though P2 made gobs of money, it was not seen as especially satisfying by both critics and moviegoers. So the moviemakers went back and read every P2 review and made the threequel into the payoff. Granted most of the major critics say the film blows. (See RottenTomatoes.com). But at least all the story lines come together, all the loose ends get tied up, and all the mysteries become clear to audiences.

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.