Correction to This Article
A July 10 Style article incorrectly characterized the opinion of Gitesh Pandya, creator of the Web site Box Office Guru. Pandya predicted the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie and its sequels, not just the latest film, could gross up to $1 billion domestically and $2 billion internationally.

'Pirates,' Full to The Gunwales In Doubloons

By Adriane Quinlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 10, 2006

Steering clear of the doldrums in a sea of bad critical reviews, the Black Pearl set sail over the weekend with an eye-popping pile of box office booty.

Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" pulled aboard $55.5 million on Friday -- the highest single-day pillage ever -- and cleaned up over the weekend with an estimated $132 million in ticket sales, another all-time record.

Following in the wake of 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," the sequel finds that same band of swashbuckling rogues cruising the high seas, under the dark-eyed vigilance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

The film lashed to the mast the former opening-day record holder, "Star Wars: Episode II, Revenge of the Sith" ($50 million). "Spider-Man," cowering in the shadows of Keira Knightley's cheekbones, gave up its former opening weekend record of $114 million. ("Curse of the Black Pearl" raked in a mere $47 million on its opening weekend in July 2003.)

Asked about the $132 million weekend haul, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said he had expected something closer to the $77 million debut for "The Da Vinci Code."

"When people in the industry predicted these high numbers, I thought they were just trying to be mean," Bruckheimer told the Associated Press yesterday. "So no matter how good we did, if we did $100 million, we'd be failures. I didn't think we'd get near these numbers."

"I think it's just jaw-dropping," said Gitesh Pandya of the Web site Box Office Guru, who predicted high numbers -- but not this high. He attributed the film's success to female moviegoers. "They just love Johnny Depp in this role," Pandya said. "He has more sex appeal than most male action stars." Judging from the weekend's turnout, Pandya thinks the film could do as well as $1 billion domestically and $2 billion internationally.

Such success illustrates a harsh divide between the viewers who turned out in droves and the critics who were practically unanimous in panning the film. The New York Times called "Pirates" "a glistening, sushi-grade chunk of franchise entertainment," and Rolling Stone reduced it to a hollow hull of "briny cliches." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times found it as "forgettable as a bad day in the Disneyland parking lot" -- a scene as crowded as the lines at Washington area theaters on Friday.

Naysayers couldn't stop Bruckheimer's film from stealing nearly double the rest of the top 12 combined. "Critics are always going to pan a sequel," said Pandya. "It's obviously not as original, but it's one of those films that's critic-proof."

Opening to 4,133 theaters, the film raked in an average of $31,944 per screen.

Pandya recalled how at a midnight Manhattan screening on Thursday, fans were dressed as pirates. "I thought, wow, this could be like a 'Harry Potter' or a 'Star Wars' franchise."

Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, told the Associated Press that "maybe the only movie that has a chance to beat this record might be the next 'Pirates' movie."

The next in the series, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World's End," is just a dot on the horizon, set to release next year on Memorial Day weekend. In that film, according to its Web site, Sparrow is forced to "lead his crew off the edge of the map."

And, if their luck holds, the box office charts.

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