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`Pirates' Again Sails to No. 1 at Box Office

July 17, 2006|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Another weekend, another plundering.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" powered through its second weekend at the box office, grossing an estimated $62.2 million in the U.S. and Canada to bring its 10-day total to a record $258.2 million.

Walt Disney Co.'s juggernaut sequel, which earlier broke the first-day and opening-weekend records, left two new comedies in its wake this weekend -- Sony Pictures' "Little Man" and Universal Pictures' "You, Me and Dupree."

Both new releases opened about as expected. The Wayans brothers' "Little Man" grossed an estimated $21.7 million, versus $21.3 million for the weekend's No. 3 film, the Owen Wilson vehicle "You, Me and Dupree."

"Pirates," the follow-up to 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," sailed past the previous 10-day record holder. Last year, "Star Wars: Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith" racked up $236.7 million in a week and a half.

"In the world of big hits, this one is starting to show its mettle," said Chuck Viane, Disney's distribution chief.

"Pirates" became the first movie this year to better the quarter-billion-dollar mark, and the fourth to top $200 million.

Based on early returns, "Pirates" has a good shot at becoming the seventh picture ever to exceed $400 million at the U.S. and Canadian box offices, said Brandon Gray, president of BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Worldwide, "Pirates" could become the third picture to break the $1-billion mark, joining "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Stars Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are popular overseas. Already, the picture has grossed $125 million in 24 territories outside the U.S. and Canada, including $58 million this weekend.

It has yet to open in two-thirds of the global markets, as the studio sought to avoid conflicting with the end of the World Cup soccer tournament.

"Pirates" has no chance, however, of challenging the all-time record grosses of $600.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $1.8 billion worldwide, both held by "Titanic," Gray said.

"It's not as complete and compelling a movie experience," he said. "It's more of a middle movie with a cliffhanger ending, but you really have to satisfy audiences to get them to see a picture over and over again."

Even so, Gray said, audiences obviously like "Pirates," which bodes well for the third installment in the series, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." That movie is due out Memorial Day weekend 2007.

Dropping 54% from its opening weekend, "Pirates" averaged an estimated $15,046 per location at 4,133 theaters.

"Little Man," starring Marlon Wayans as a pint-size jewel thief, averaged $8,567 at 2,533 theaters. "Dupree," starring Wilson as a quirky marriage crasher, averaged $6,803 at 3,131 theaters.

"The Wayans brothers consistently open their movies" to solid business, said Rory Bruer, Sony's domestic distribution chief. "They are synonymous with comedy. The concept of big, fun summer comedies is working out well for us."

Also upbeat was Nikki Rocco, Universal's distribution head.

"When you see 'Dupree,' you have a lot of fun with it," she said. "It's a great start, and we'll have to see where it goes."

Most critics were less kind. "This is cringe-inducing humor at its most wooden," USA Today said of "Dupree." The Arizona Republic said "Little Man" hinged on "a single gag that's not very funny."

Among other movies in the top 10, Disney's "Cars" added $7.5 million to bring its total to $219.7 million, passing "The Da Vinci Code" as the year's No. 3 picture in the U.S. and Canada. "X-Men: The Last Stand" is No. 2 at $232 million.

"A Scanner Darkly" from Warner Independent Pictures expanded to 216 theaters and finished 10th for the weekend with $1.2 million.

Despite the strength of "Pirates," the overall box-office total fell from a year earlier for the first time in nine weeks, when "Poseidon" had its disastrous opening. An estimated $156 million in tickets was sold, a drop of 4.9%.

"This goes to show that no single picture can save the box office," Gray said.

In the same weekend in 2005, two comedies, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Wedding Crashers," opened to far bigger business than this weekend's new offerings. Wilson, as highlighted in Universal's ads, co-starred in "Wedding Crashers," and Depp starred in "Charlie."

Year to date, U.S. and Canadian ticket sales reached $5.2 billion, up 6.7% from the same point in 2005.

"Pirates" could top the box office for the third time next weekend, analysts said -- a rarity in today's front-loaded movie market.

Four releases open wide: "Lady in the Water," the latest fantasy from "The Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan; "Monster House," a 3-D animated movie; "Clerks II," Kevin Smith's follow-up to his 1994 cult hit; and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," a high-concept romp starring Uma Thurman as a jilted superhero.

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Begin text of infobox

Box office

Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $62.2 $258.2

Little Man 21.7 21.7

You, Me and Dupree 21.3 21.3

Superman Returns 11.6 163.6

The Devil Wears Prada 10.5 83.6

Cars 7.5 219.7

Click 7.0 119.7

The Lake House 1.6 48.9

Nacho Libre 1.5 77.1

A Scanner Darkly 1.2 1.8

*--*

Industry total

*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2005 $156.0 -4.9%

Year-to-date gross Change (in billions) from 2005 $5.2 +6.7%

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*--* Source: Exhibitor Relations Co. Los Angeles Times

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