Disney’s ‘Pirates’ $346 Million Opening Fourth-Biggest Worldwide Debut Ever at Weekend Box Office

Disney Enterprises

The Johnny Depp tentpole smashes records overseas, where it earns $256.3 million to become top international debut of all time; bows to a softer $90.1 million in North America

Fueled by foreign moviegoers, Disney’s 3D Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened to $346.4 million at the worldwide box office to grab the fourth-best global bow of all time, as well as the biggest international opening ever.

On Stranger Tides grossed a massive $256.3 million overseas, nearly three times the $90.1 million earned in North America.

Disney had hoped for a $100 million opening at the domestic box office but took solace in the fact that On Stranger Tides still scored the top debut of the year (Universal’s Fast Five was the previous crown-holder with $86.2 million). Tracking had always suggested that the movie would open in the $80 million to $100 million range domestically.

Thanks to the 3D tentpole, domestic box-office revenue was up 12 percent from a year ago.

On Stranger Tides was an expensive proposition for Disney, costing $250 million to produce before a hefty marketing spend.

The movie’s stellar opening overseas reinforces the glowing clout of the international box office, where On Stranger Tides came in ahead of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($236 million), Spider-Man 3 ($230.5 million) and the previous Pirates film, At World’s End ($216 million).

Those three movies all opened north of $100 million domestically, so in terms of global grosses, they still pace ahead of On Stranger Tides in terms of best overall opening. Half-Blood Prince opened to $393 million, Spider-Man 3 with $381 million and At World’s End to $357 million.

In North America, At World's End debuted to $114.7 million in May 2007, well more than the $90.1 million grossed by On Stranger Tides.

Domestically, On Stranger Tides drew a B+ CinemaScore rating, indicating that moviegoers liked the film despite generally poor reviews. The majority of Friday’s audience was older than 25 (54 percent), and 54 percent were male. Couples made up 53 percent.

“I think Rob Marshall obviously made one hell of a movie, and when you team Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp, it’s dynamite,” Disney president of worldwide distribution Chuck Viane says. “And for me, I will never look $90 million in the face and say it’s not a successful opening. Tracking had always aimed at this number, but everybody tried to make it more than the realty of tracking was. And there’s no doubt but that the international box office is becoming more and more important.”

Key drivers overseas included markets where there’s a booming appetite for 3D pics. On Stranger Tides grossed more than $25 million in Russia — an industry record and outpacing the entire run of At World’s End. On Stranger Tides grossed $20 million in China to outpace the entire run of the previous Pirates installment.

On Stranger Tides did especially well in Imax theaters, becoming the top global opening of all time for the large-format exhibitor in grossing $16.7 million. In the U.S., the movie played in a record 256 Imax theaters.

“For Disney and the Pirates franchise, this is a huge global phenomenon, and we're thrilled that Imax produced a worldwide record, as well,” says Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment at Imax. “This shows that moviegoers around the world continue to embrace Imax as the place to see their blockbusters.  We're particularly excited about the powerful $61k per screen average internationally.”

On Stranger Tides was the only wide opening of the weekend domestically.

Also making headlines was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which scored the writer-director a career best. The film grossed $578,805 from six theaters in Los Angeles and New York for a per location average of $96,468 — the best theater average in months and beating recent specialty hits including The King’s Speech, which grossed $355,450 from four theaters in its debut for a location average of $88,863.

Back on the domestic top 10 chart, Universal’s Bridesmaids held strong in its second weekend to come in No. 2. The R-rated comedy fell a scant 21 percent to an estimated $21.1 million for a cume of $58.9 million in its first 10 days.

Paramount and Marvel Studios’ Thor placed No. 3, declining 55 percent to $15.5 million for a cume of $145.4 million.

Coming in No. 4 was Fast Five, which grossed fell 50 percent to $10.2 million for a cume of $185.8 million.

Rounding out the top five was Fox’s 3D toon Rio, which grossed an estimated $4.7 million in its sixth weekend for a cume of $131.6 million.