It’s all about Jack Sparrow this weekend. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth movie in the Disney franchise that’s grossed $2.7 billion worldwide, is the only new wide release this week. The movie is an attempt to regain the Pirates mojo after the series’ second and third movies suffered from convoluted plots and gargantuan running times. So, at 137 minutes, this one is 32 minutes shorter than At World’s End, and Johnny Depp’s eccentric Jack Sparrow has been pushed to the forefront — so long, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. But it’s been four years since At World’s End. Are moviegoers quite as in love with Sparrow as they were a few years ago? Are people ready to forgive the series’ prior transgressions? My box-office predictions:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: $93 million
I don’t see On Stranger Tides matching the domestic debuts of Dead Man’s Chest ($135.6 million) or At World’s End ($114.7 million). I imagine that moviegoers’ interest has waned a bit for a series that’s already tallied a running time of 463 minutes and has witnessed more double crosses than an all-girls high school. Not helping matters is that, at the time of this writing, On Stranger Tides has received the worst reviews of the franchise. And in a telling move, Disney is having the film’s talent spend this final week doing publicity overseas instead of in America. With the $250 million movie opening worldwide this weekend, Disney likely decided that there was more room for growth overseas and adjusted the film’s publicity schedule accordingly. Even if On Stranger Tides underperforms at the domestic box office this weekend, Disney can count on a massive international opening.
When I say “underperforms,” let’s keep this in perspective. After all, this is Jack Sparrow we’re talking about, and movie characters don’t get any more popular than him. The PG-13 film is playing at 4,155 theaters domestically, including about 2,700 3-D theaters and 256 IMAX locations. That’s a huge release, and those 3-D and IMAX surcharges should lift its haul. On Stranger Tides could conceivably open anywhere from $80 million to $120 million. I’m sticking to the lower part of that range, but when you’re dealing with grosses this big, one might as well start throwing darts at a list of numbers.
2. Bridesmaids: $18 million
It’ll be a close battle for second place between Bridesmaids and Thor, but the R-rated wedding comedy is generating some excellent word-of-mouth and has so far trumped the god of thunder on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So I’m giving it the edge — expect a slight drop of about 30 percent.
3. Thor: $17.5 million
In spite of scoring the smallest second-weekend decline for a Marvel superhero film since 2002′s Spider-Man, this flick is going to be hit hard by On Stranger Tides. It’ll be losing a significant number of 3-D and IMAX screens, and the two films are essentially going after the same audience. Thor seems destined for a 50 percent drop this weekend.
4. Fast Five: $12 million
The street-racing action film held up well its third week, skidding only 37 percent. It won’t be as adversely affected by On Stranger Tides‘ emergence as Thor will, so I’m betting on a decline that’s somewhere between 40 and 45 percent.
5. Priest: $6 million
With uninspired reviews and a lackluster “C+” grade from CinemaScore audiences, this PG-13 action horror film should plummet around 60 percent this week.