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Box Office Preview: 'Pirates of The Caribbean' U.S. Opening Likely Won't Top Third Film

Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises Inc
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

The Johnny Depp tentpole is projected to gross between $90 and $100 million in its domestic bow.

Disney relaunches one of its key franchises this weekend as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sets sail around the globe. In a great start overseas, it grossed an impressive $18.3 million on Wednesday as it began rolling out in 10 territories, including a record-breaking $5 million in Russia.

Pirates has a new director, Rob Marshall, and is the first in the series to be released in 3D, upping its earning potential.

But tracking suggests that the Johnny Depp tentpole may not be able to match the dazzling domestic debut of the third Pirates film, which opened to $114.7 million exactly four years ago. That's likely due to the soft marketplace, as well as the time lapse between the films.

On Stranger Tides is projected to gross between $90 million and $100 million in its domestic bow. That would still make it the top opening of 2011, although The Hangover Part II could set a new benchmark next weekend, thanks to the Memorial Day holiday.

The last Pirates installment, At World’s End, cumed $309.4 million domestically and a whopping $654 million internationally. On Stranger Tides is expected to follow suit and do better overseas, considering the ravenous appetite both for the franchise and 3D fare. On Wednesday, it opened well ahead of At World's End in many territories. On Stranger Tides is opening day and date in most of the world.

That's one reason why Disney took On Stranger Tides to the Cannes Film Festival, where it played out of competition and drew rousing crowds eager to see Depp and Penelope Cruz walk the world's most famous red carpet.

Depp, who remains a huge star around the globe and is the heart and soul of the franchise, returns as the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow. Geoffrey Rush also returns, while Cruz and Ian McShane appear for the first time.

Disney hopes to introduce a new generation of kids to one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood history, and is planning two more installments.

The other high-profile debut of the weekend comes on the specialty side as Sony Pictures Classics opens Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris on six screens in New York and Los Angeles.

Midnight in Paris was the opening night film at Cannes, and was well received. The film stars Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams.

Sony Classics is anticipating a robust launch for a specialty film, fueled by Allen’s loyal fans. A modest roll-out is expected over the next few weeks.

Email: Pamela.McClintock@thr.com