'Pirates of the Caribbean 4' Gets Day-and-Date China Release

"On Stranger Tides," which stars Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, will bow May 20 in most of the world, including the United States.

BEIJING -- The Walt Disney Co.'s Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides will be released in China on May 20, day-and-date with U.S. and most of the world, playing in all formats, including 3D and IMAX-3D, a company spokesman said late Tuesday.

The film will be one of the 20 imported titles allowed to recoup between 13-17 percent of its box office gross in China each year, where the state-run duopoly of the China Film Group and Huaxia Film Distribution control Hollywood imports and distribution despite a World Trade Organization ruling that says the practice is illegal.

China’s box office jumped 64 percent in 2010 to $1.5 billion and Hollywood studios are ever more keen to get their biggest titles into the market that, with an explosion the sale of premium 3D and IMAX tickets, saw Avatar gross more than $200 million in China alone.

Pirates 4 brings back Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and revives the franchise’s original bad guy, Geoffrey Rush. It also adds Penelope Cruz as a beautiful trickster who tangles romantically with Captain Jack and Ian McShane as a fearsome new villain.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End  was released in China in June of 2007, in the pre-3D era here and without the benefit of a lead-in from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which was banned for its supernatural themes. Nonetheless, Pirates 3 grossed over 120 million yuan (about $18.3 million today).

The Pirates name has proven itself one of the most lucrative film franchises of the 21st century, taking in a combined total of more than $2.6 billion in box office returns worldwide.