Americans appear to be growing tired of riding the high seas with Capt. Jack Sparrow, but “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” found box office treasure anyway.
The fourth entry in the Johnny Depp-starring “Pirates” series collection was $256.3 million on its first weekend in more than 100 foreign countries, according to an estimate from Walt Disney Studios. That’s the biggest international debut of all time for a film.
It had made up more than for a softer-than-expected $90.1-million launch in the U.S. and Canada. The total worldwide tally was a huge $346.4 million; the film enjoyed the all-time biggest openings in Latin America, the Middle East and Russia, according to Disney.
The disparity in performance demonstrates that in the increasingly global film business, movies can still be blockbuster hits while disappointing at the domestic box office.
“On Stranger Tides” could end up collecting a total of $1 billion, easily justifying the more than $400 million Disney spent on production and advertising.
“People have got to understand the size of the stage,” said Disney distribution President Chuck Viane. “It doesn’t matter where the money comes from anymore.”
In fact, the best news at the domestic box office may have come not for “Pirates” but the modestly budgeted comedy “Bridesmaids.” It dropped only 20% on its second weekend to $21.1 million, an indication of strong word of mouth.
To bolster “On Stranger Tides” after 2007 grossed less than the 2006 second entry. U.S. and Canadian audiences didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. Though the movie enjoyed the biggest opening of the year in those countries, it came in well behind the last two “Pirates” pictures. They launched to $135.6 million and $114.7 million respectively.
Despite poor reviews, most people who saw “On Stranger Tides” seemed to like it. U.S. audiences scored the picture a B+, according to market research firm Cinema Score.
Even with strong word of mouth, though, “On Stranger Tides” will struggle to avoid being the lowest-grossing “Pirates” movie domestically, a title held by the original “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which generated $305.4 million in 2003.
It is also clear that the “Pirates” franchise itself remains vibrant overseas, particularly in countries where many people may not have even seen the original because there were fewer theaters in 2003.
Since the movie’s premiere at Disneyland on May 7, the cast has spent its time doing international publicity including premieres in London, Moscow and at the Cannes Film Festival — an effort that obviously paid off.