It’s Memorial Day weekend, what used to traditionally be the start of summer.
And the last couple of years have been sluggish with potential tentpoles that either bombed (Disney’s Tomorrowland, Alice Through the Looking Glass), or underperformed, i.e. 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse ($79.8M over four days).
But it’s not just Disney and Paramount with Baywatch who are looking for a boom, rather all distributors could go for a nice air-conditioned boost in the current seasonal heatwave which is lagging 10% behind last summer through the first three weekends in U.S./Canada.
Disney is hoping that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth in the series, reverses its sour B.O. streak for the four-day holiday stretch, which started with 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($200M production cost, $336.4M global). Dead Men Tell No Tales originally had a $100m stateside four-day projection four weeks ago on tracking and has since simmered to between $80M-$85M, which if that’s the case will be off between 6%-11% from the opening of the last film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($90M). Leading man Johnny Depp too could use a boost at the box office, his last $100M-plus opening being 2010’s Alice in Wonderland ($116M). Post On Strangers Tides, his three-day stateside starts have averaged at $20M a pic over the last six years.
It will be interesting to see how Pirates fares in the zenith of the social media age which can make more dents at the B.O. than it did when On Stranger Tides was released six years ago. While critics loved the first movie 14 years ago (79% certified fresh), they quickly tired of it with each sequel, with Dead Men currently at 35% Rotten. Nonetheless, the franchise remained critic proof.
Similar to On Stranger Tides, which posted the lowest grosses for the series stateside ($241M), it’s up to foreign to plug any holes that might spring up in Dead Men‘s boat, which is looking to gross between $150M-200M, repping a 91% foreign footprint including China. And while that puts the global start for Dead Men Tell No Tales between $230M-$285M, some believe that there’s a slight chance that the Joachim Ronning-Espen Sandberg-directed movie can go higher in U.S./Canada for $100M, which would then push its worldwide to $300M, however, $250M would be a sweet start. On Stranger Tides was the second Pirates film to cross $1 billion, thanks to making 77% of its booty overseas. This was during a time when 3D was all the rage post-Avatar in burgeoning foreign markets. Through four movies, the Pirates movies for Disney have grossed over $3.7 billion.
Looking to find a place among older audiences sans kids, Paramount’s feature adaptation of 90s TV series Baywatch hopes to stay afloat. That’s why Par is taking the Dwayne Johnson-Zach Efron movie out on Thursday with previews starting tonight at 7PM. Baywatch, which carries an estimated high $60M range negative cost looks to dock $30M-plus over three days and $40M-plus over four in 3,500 locations.
Dead Men Tell No Tales kicks off on Thursday night at 7PM and by Friday will be in play at 4,276 theatres. Broken down that’s 3,100+ 3D locations, 400 Imax locations, 500+ Premium Large Format locations, 170 D-Box locations, 10 4D auditoriums, and three venues featuring the new ScreenX three-screen format. Production cost before P&A is $230M for Dead Men Tell No Tales, which is $30M cheaper than On Stranger Tides. Disney was so confident with the movie that they showed it to exhibitors at CinemaCon back in March.
Abroad, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is also known as Salazar’s Revenge in some international markets. On Stranger Tides opened to about $175M in the same markets and at today’s exchange rates; it went on to gross $805M offshore at a time when there was less distance between installments and 3D was a big factor.
As ever, China will be the big swing here and is difficult to predict. It was ultimately the No. 2 market for On Stranger Tides with a total $70M (the No. 1 franchise hub is typically Japan, but that is not opening until July on this film). Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy sequel recently opened to $49M in the Middle Kingdom while the biggest bow ever for a Disney title was Captain America: Civil War with $95.6M (about $91M today). IMAX pre-sales on Pirates 5 are currently running on par with Civil War, although this market remains a wild card.
The Mouse did a big push in the Middle Kingdom on Pirates 5, holding the first-ever world premiere of a Hollywood film in Mainland China. The high-profile event was at its Shanghai Disney Resort and took place on May 11, a full 15 days ahead of release with about 1,500 fans in attendance.
The China release will lead into the Dragon Boat Festival which officially falls on May 30 with the market on holiday from Sunday May 28 for three days (this is the same holiday in which Warcraft bowed last year). Acting as a refresher, all of the previous films in the Pirates franchise were shown at the Beijing Film Festival in April – an increasingly popular tactic used by Hollywood to tap new PROC audiences.
(There’s also, sadly, another swing to consider which is the UK. Given this week’s deadly attack in Manchester, and the alert level being raised to “critical” across the nation, it would not be surprising to see a dip in moviegoing. After the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015, box office was down about 20%.)
Offshore promotion has been significant on Pirates 5 with Depp and the cast and filmmakers (who have their own international flavor) popping into Disneyland Paris for a surprise visit to the park on May 14. There were fan screenings in the UK, Italy, Germany, Poland, the UAE, Mexico, Argentina and Russia, among others.
In the UK, Australia and Brazil, Dis set up pirate invasion stunts. At such sites as the White Cliffs of Dover, ghost pirate sculptures could be seen appearing and disappearing with the tides. Other ghost ship projections were seen in Sydney Harbor and Sao Paolo’s biggest mall.
Also, in eight countries this is Disney’s first partnership with ScreenX which will use three sides of a cinema’s walls to create a 270-degree experience. In Imax, the film opens on 647 overseas screens this session – 400 of them in China.
Starting tomorrow Pirates 5 notably sails into Korea, France, Italy and Norway (the latter the homeland of directors Ronning and Sandberg). Thursday brings the UK, Russia, Germany, Brazil and Australia among others; and on Friday, Spain, Mexico and China walk the plank.
Each of the Pirates movies has increased its overseas box office, beginning with (at historical rates) Curse Of The Black Pearl ($349M) and sailing through Dead Man’s Chest ($643M), At World’s End ($654M) and On Stranger Tides ($805M).
On Stranger Tides’ Top 5 markets at historical rates were Japan ($109M), China ($70M), Russia ($64M), Germany ($62M) and the UK ($54M). France, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Spain round out the Top 10.