Ahoy, ‘Pirates’ Slip! Soft $35M Friday for ‘On Stranger Tides’

Disney was aiming for $100M, but Johnny Depp’s fourth go-around in heavy eyeliner probably won’t even hit $90M

Last Updated: May 21, 2011 @ 8:54 AM

Saturday update:

Well, you don't always hit the bullseye.

Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, "On Stranger Tides," got off to a $35 million start Friday, according to rival-studio estimates.

That pace will deliver the film the best opening at the domestic box office of any film this year. But the movie will likely miss the $90 million mark, and Disney had publicly stated that its goal for the amply promoted $200 million follow-up was a domestic opening of at least $100 million.

(TheWrap's own prediction was $105 million, ending our streak of spot-on predictions that dated back to a $40 million call for "Rio" in April. So it goes.)

"Pirates 4" could still end the weekend with as much as $100 million in foreign grosses, with the film released day-and-date all over the globe.

The question at this point seems to be how profitable the film will be … and if it will come close to the $963.4 million global haul of 2007's third installment, "At World's End." (With Robert Zemeckis' disastrous "Mars Needs Moms" almost single-handedly bringing down the Mouse House's first-quarter earnings, the need for a big win for "Pirates 4" is somewhat accentuated.)

The critically loathed "At World's End" opened ot $114 million, with about 300 more locations on a four-day Memorial Day weekend holiday. But it wasn't charging 3D rates, like "On Stranger Tides" is.

There were no other films opening widely this weekend, but there were some standout performances among holdovers Friday.

Namely, Universal's "Bridesmaids" hauled in $6.4 million on its second Friday, a pace that will deliver it a weekend No. 2 performance of over 20 million and a week-to-week drop-off of less than 20 percent.

Log on Sunday morning for our full-weekend box-office report.

Thursday preview:

It's supposed to be cheaper and better, but will it open bigger?

That's the question, as Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, "On Stranger Tides," readies to open in 4,155 U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, more than 2,700 of them showing the film in 3D and 256 of those locations flying the IMAX flag.

Those tracking the film outside the studio peg its three-day premiere somewhere between $90 million to $105 million, while pointing to such factors as the cooler 2011 box office climate, the non-holiday weekend and general franchise fatigue.

Also read: 'Pirates 4' Suffers From a Bad Case of Sequelitits

For Disney, it's a pretty simple equation.

"If it starts with a '1' in front of it, I'll be happy with the number," said Disney theatrical distribution chief Chuck Viane. "If it doesn't, I won't be. This is a good picture. I love this one."

While producer Jerry Bruckheimer was told to lower the budget from No. 3, "At World's End," from $300 million to around $200 million, and Rob Marshall has replaced Gore Verbinski as director, it remains questionable as to whether No. 4 is qualitatively better, given its 39 percent Rotten Tomatoes score as of Thursday afternoon.

Certainly, "At World's End's" $114.6 million start — set over Memorial Day Weekend in 2007 — seems tough to beat, even with 3D ticket prices.

"I just don't feel the same heat on this one," said one rival-studio distribution executive.

"I'd lean toward 105," said another rival-studio box-office watcher. "Disney has spent so much already that they'll spend whatever it takes to top $100 million."

The movie also opens day and date in the rest of the world — "everywhere," according to Viane — so expect a pretty big international number, too.

As for the tracking, it's pretty spectacular.

Across all four age/gender quadrants, the film is registering around 97 percent total awareness, with 60 percent of responders implying definite interest and 26 percent calling it their first choice.

It's not bad when about a quarter of all moviegoers want to see your film before any other.

As for the rest of the market, Universal's comedy breakout "Bridesmaids" is widely predicted to enjoy a solid weekend No. 2 and secure the second spot. The $32.5 million Judd Apatow comedy has already cleared $35.6 million domestically, and has beat "Thor" the last several weekdays.

In terms of limited openings this weekend, Sony Classics will start out Woody Allen's latest romantic comedy, "Midnight in Paris," in six locations.

The film stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Adrien Brody.