- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp’s boozy, woozy buccaneer Jack Sparrow has plundered the box office, with “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” taking in a record $132 million in its first three days, according to studio estimates released yesterday.

Disney’s swashbuckling sequel sailed past the previous all-time best debut, 2002’s “Spider-Man,” which took in $114.8 million in its first weekend.

“Dead Man’s Chest” also did nearly three times the business of its predecessor, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which took in $46.6 million over opening weekend in 2003.

The sequel surpassed that total in its first day alone, taking in $55.5 million Friday to beat the previous single-day record of $50 million, set last year by “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” With $44.7 million on Saturday, “Dead Man’s Chest” also became the first movie to top $100 million in just two days.

Despite sky-high projections for the “Pirates” sequel from industry analysts, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said he had expected “Dead Man’s Chest” to open closer to the $77 million debut weekend in the spring of “The Da Vinci Code.”

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

The movie sent Hollywood’s overall business soaring. The top 12 films grossed $206.5 million, up 48 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Fantastic Four” opened with $56.1 million.

“Dead Man’s Chest” raked in nearly double the total of the rest of the top 12 combined. The previous weekend’s top film, “Superman Returns,” fell to No. 2 with $21.85 million, down 58 percent from opening weekend.

“Superman Returns” has grossed $141.7 million in 12 days and should fly past the $200 million mark, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released the film.

The sci-fi tale of drug addiction “A Scanner Darkly” debuted strongly in limited release with $406,000 in 17 theaters. Shot in live action then painted over with digital animation, the movie stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr. in a hallucinatory tale adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel.

In a single weekend, “Dead Man’s Chest” reeled in 43 percent of the $305 million total domestic gross the original “Pirates” rang up in its entire six-month theatrical run.

The movie’s audience was equally divided between male and female, and it drew strongly from all age groups, Disney said.

“It is straight across the board,” said Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney, which based the movies on its “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme park ride. “Everybody’s coming. Whoever it is, they’re there.”

Even factoring in higher admission prices since 2002, “Dead Man’s Chest” still set a record of nearly 20 million tickets sold, about 200,000 more than “Spider-Man.”

“Maybe the only movie that has a chance to beat this record might be the next ‘Pirates’ movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Audiences won’t have to wait long. Disney shot much of the third installment at the same time as “Dead Man’s Chest,” which ends in a cliffhanger leading into part three, due in theaters over Memorial Day weekend next year.

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