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`Pirates' Hits Another Milestone

The movie breezes past $300 million in record time and tops the box office for a third straight week. `Monster House' beats expectations.

July 24, 2006|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Pirates kept pillaging the movie box office over the weekend, but monsters scared up plenty of business as well.

Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" became the fastest film in history to pass $300 million in the U.S. and Canada, grossing an estimated $35 million in its third weekend.

The action comedy became the first movie of the year to top the charts three straight times, a rarity in today's high-turnover market.

Sony Pictures' "Monster House" finished second, opening best among a quartet of major new releases. It grossed a better-than-expected $23 million, according to studio estimates.

M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water" was the highest-profile disappointment, finishing third overall with $18.2 million for Warner Bros.

Industrywide, weekend ticket sales rose 8.9% from a year ago, thanks partly to the unseasonable West Coast heat wave that sent consumers scurrying into air-conditioned multiplexes.

"When the heat gets this oppressive, there's a very inviting piece of real estate called the movie theater," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of industry tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. in Encino.

Disney executives said "Pirates" was on pace to quickly overtake 2003's animated classic "Finding Nemo" as the studio's highest-grossing picture ever.

"This is a testament to the positive word of mouth," said Chuck Viane, Disney's president of distribution. "When you're at this level of gross, you're reaching the people who only go to the movies once or twice a year."

"Pirates" has already passed its predecessor, 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." The first installment grossed $305.4 million in the U.S. and Canada during its entire run.

The latest "Pirates" topped the $300-million mark in 16 days, out-sprinting last year's "Star Wars: Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith," which did the trick in 17 days. "Pirates" has generated $321.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, placing it 16th on the industry's all-time list.

The movie is likely to become only the seventh ever to top $400 million, but it would have to show stunning stamina to approach the all-time record of $600.8 million, held by "Titanic."

The picture continued at 4,133 theaters, averaging $8,480 per location.

Outside the U.S. and Canada, "Pirates" grossed an estimated $62 million over the weekend, bringing its worldwide total to $539 million. The movie opened in Japan and Latin America but still has 40% of world markets in front of it.

Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' domestic distribution president, said he was pleased by the opening for "Monster House," which averaged $6,473 at 3,553 theaters. At 163 theaters, it is playing in 3-D.

"We had hoped to hit $20 million," he said. "This film feels fresh, different and fun, and people are responding to that."

Families constituted two-thirds of the crowd. In exit surveys, 81% of viewers rated the picture "excellent" or "very good," which bodes well for the picture's word of mouth, he said.

"Lady in the Water," Shyamalan's spooky fantasy starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard, pulled in $18.2 million for Warner Bros., the lowest of the filmmaker's five wide releases.

Shyamalan is best known for the 1999 horror classic "The Sixth Sense." But his biggest openings have come more recently. "The Village" opened at $50.7 million in 2004 and "Signs" at $60.1 million in 2002.

Dan Fellman, domestic distribution chief at Warner Bros., said "Lady in the Water" was hurt by negative reviews and controversy surrounding the book "The Man Who Heard Voices," which tells the story behind Shyamalan's bitter split from his longtime studio, Disney.

But Fellman said Warner Bros. would "come out OK" financially on "Lady," noting that it partnered with Legendary Pictures on the $70-million production.

"Clerks II," director Kevin Smith's follow-up to the 1994 sleeper hit that launched his career, opened at a modest $9.6 million for Weinstein Co. and MGM despite generally favorable reviews.

The other wide release, 20th Century Fox's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," a comedy starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, generated a disappointing $8.7 million. It fared worst among the new releases despite a prominent cast and a director, Ivan Reitman, with a history of hits.

Bruce Snyder, Fox's domestic distribution head, said that despite the weak opening, he was heartened by a 23% increase in business from Friday to Saturday.

Among holdover movies, Universal Pictures' "You, Me and Dupree" placed fourth with a gross of $12.8 million in its second weekend, a drop of 41% for the comedy starring Owen Wilson. Sony Pictures' "Little Man" grossed $11 million, a 49% decline from its opening weekend.

Year to date, box-office revenue industrywide is up 7% and attendance has risen 3.8%.

"Pirates" could top the charts again next weekend, but it faces a trio of new wide releases. The toughest competitor could be director Michael Mann's big-screen version of "Miami Vice."

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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 $35.0 $321.7

Monster House 23.0 23.0

Lady in the Water 18.2 18.2

You, Me and Dupree 12.8 45.3

Little Man 11.0 40.6

Clerks II 9.6 9.6

My Super Ex-Girlfriend 8.7 8.7

Superman Returns 7.5 178.4

The Devil Wears Prada 7.4 97.6

Cars 4.9 229.4

*--*

Industry total

*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2005 $152.0 +8.9%

Year-to-date gross Change (in billions) from 2005 $5.45 +7.0%

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

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