May 20, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Let the summer begin!  The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean will open all by itself with close to $95 million this weekend.

Opening at over 4,000 theaters, Pirates 4 should average a killer $23,500 per theater (for $94 million total).  On Stranger Tides is the most coolly-received movie in the franchise by critics (read Mitch Salem’s review), suggesting the multiple from the opening weekend might be on the soft side.  Right now, the projected domestic total is $265 million, although $300 million is not out of the question if word of mouth is better than the critical notices suggest.  In the meantime, we will stick with the lower domestic total forecast.

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
May 20-22                        Positive   Weekend   Total*
Pirates of the Caribbean Dis PG13   35%      $94      $265
  On Stranger Tides
Pirates Track
At World’s End           5.25.2007  45%      $115     $309  
Dead Man’s Chest         7.7.2006   54%      $135     $423 
Curse of the Black Pearl 7.9.2003   78%      $47      $305

Note: Although critic reviews are not related to the size of the opening weekend, they are significantly correlated with the size of the declines in the opening weeks of a movie.
* The Domestic Total is a very early ShowbuzzDaily projection of the total North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.
Thor will duke it out with Bridesmaids for second place.  Since Monday, Bridesmaids has slightly outgrossed Thor, and with Pirates opening and taking the action audience, we have to give a slight edge to Bridesmaids.
Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
                                vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

Bridesmaids            Uni        -32%      $18       $ 95

Thor                   Par        -48%      $18       $206

Fast Five              Uni        -44%      $11.5     $214

Priest                Sony        -60%      $ 6       $ 33
Rio                    Fox        -44%      $ 4.5     $148
Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $170 million total, ranking 4th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $143 million, and May 22-24, 2009 was $170 million.  This weekend is looking like $165 million: a fairly average number for this weekend but definitely up over last year if the forecast is accurate.   

This Weekend Last Two Years
Last year Shrek Forever After had lofty expectations but failed to deliver. On the contrary, Pirates: On Stranger Tides feels like it can deliver (at least in the first weekend), but we shall see.

 Shrek Forever After PAR/ DW PG    
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $98  Actual: $71
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $240  Actual: $238
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $499
 MacGruber UNI R Will Forte Kristen Wiig  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $12  Actual: $4
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $11  Actual: $8
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $1
Night at the Museum II: Battle of the Smithsonian FOX PG Ben Stiller Amy Adams  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $60  Actual: $54
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $166  Actual: $177
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $235
 Terminator Salvation WB PG13 Christian Bale Sam Worthington  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $69  Actual: $43
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $130  Actual: $125
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $246
 Dance Flick PAR PG13    
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $11
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $28  Actual: $26
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $5
Come back throughout the weekend to see how the movies actually perform.  Saturday morning we will have an early look at how the weekend is shaping up (based on Friday’s actual numbers), on Sunday we will have studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday), and Monday we will have a complete wrap-up based on the actual full-weekend numbers. 

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.