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Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 05-16-11


 
Johnny Depp on the red carpet promoting “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

Johnny Depp on the red carpet promoting “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

Stars of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz

Stars of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz shows off her dress at the Grand Palais premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

Penelope Cruz shows off her dress at the Grand Palais premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

“Pirates” power: It may not be competing for the Palme d’Or, but “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is clearly one of this year’s big winners at Cannes.

With its May 14 premiere at the Grand Palais, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “Pirates” captured the global media spotlight that will help drive it everywhere as it kicks off Hollywood’s summer movie season May 20. Bringing the excitement and star power of “Pirates” to La Croisette was a smart marketing move for Disney that should pay off in boxoffice doubloons.

“Pirates” has been tracking through the roof and is a solid first choice for all four demographic quadrants. It’s strongest with -25 females and only slightly weaker with 25+ females. Males under and over 25 are great, too, scoring only a few points less. It’s a safe bet that “Pirates” will pack a hefty punch.

Of course, Hollywood naysayers put the franchise on the endangered species list when the last episode, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” opened May 25, 2007. Critics thumbed their noses at it, with some of them calling it “At Wit’s End.” That didn’t stop it from opening to $114.7 million and winding up with $309.4 million domestically and about $654 million more internationally. That’s nearly $1 billion worldwide — not too bad for a franchise the critics said was about to walk the plank on its last legs.

This time around with Rob Marshall directing, the consensus is that the film benefits from having more comedy, an easier to follow storyline and even more star wattage thanks to Penelope Cruz teaming up with Johnny Depp. It also helps that Geoffrey Rush is coming off a worldwide boxoffice hit with “The King’s Speech.”

On top of that, this episode runs 2:17 while the previous one weighed in at a too long 2:48. It’s a case of less being more. That half-hour less running time means more performances and bigger grosses as the multiplexes grind away daily.

Whatever happens, theatre owners are likely to be much happier than they were the same weekend last year (May 21-23, 2010) when DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s After a cool winter and spring, the boxoffice is about to start heating up. “Shrek Forever After” arrived to $70.8 million and Paramount and Marvel Entertainment’s “Iron Man 2” came in second with $26.4 million in its third week.

Actually, Memorial Day was one week later last year than it is this year so the best comparison should be to the four day holiday weekend of May 28-31, 2010. Key films — those grossing $500,000 or more for the four days — took in nearly $186 million, down about 14 percent from $215 million over Memorial Day weekend 2009. Last year “Shrek Forever After” underperformed with $57.1 million for four days. The 2009 Memorial Day boxoffice was topped by Fox’s “Night at the Museum 2,” which opened to $70 million for four days.

“Pirates” should outperform both “Shrek Forever After” and “Night at the Museum 2.” If it sails past “At World’s End,” exhibitors, Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer will certainly be cracking open champagne — hopefully with pirates’ swords!

Last weekend’s boxoffice results are encouraging even though the marketplace slid about 3 percent from last year. In particular, it was good to see a modest 48 percent drop to about $34.5 million for Paramount and Marvel Entertainment’s “Thor” in its second weekend and a much better than anticipated $24 million-plus launch for Universal and Relativity Media’s R-rated comedy “Bridesmaids.”

In fact, the success of “Bridesmaids” augers well for this summer’s next girls-behaving-badly R-rated comedy — Columbia’s “Bad Teacher,” starring Cameron Diaz as a disinterested junior high teacher who, according to the film’s great marketing materials, just “doesn’t give an F.” When “Bad” checks into theatres June 24 it should do real good — well, even Diaz’s character would give real good an F!

Of course, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ boys-behaving-badly R-rated franchise comedy episode “The Hangover Part II” is on deck for May 26 and is likely to keep the multiplexes packed. The original “The Hangover” opened June 5, 2009 to $45 million and went on to gross $277.3 million domestically. It did over $190 million more abroad. With the franchise solidly established and with Bradley Cooper and other key cast members returning, the sequel should pack the same kind of tasty boxoffice punch.

Bottom line: After a cool winter and spring, the boxoffice is about to start heating up.