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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: ‘Pirates’ has Best. Opening. Ever.

By now, everyone has heard that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has broken all sorts of box-office records: biggest opening weekend ($135.6 million), biggest single day and biggest opening day ($55.8 million on Friday), fastest to $100 million (two days), and more. And that’s no cheating with midweek openings, though it did have more than 2,000 midnight screenings in the early AM hours of Friday.

Part of me goes: Yea! cuz I love the film and absolutely adore the fact that Johnny Depp’s deeply weird and very daring portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow seems to have been a draw for lots of people beyond me. Part of me despairs to hear this news, because up till this weekend, it had seemed this year that perhaps the merest sliver of the beginning of the concept that the opening-weekend box office was not the only possible measure of Hollywood success was starting to sink into the industry. It had seemed that maybe the blockbuster mentality would not be gripping The Movies forever.

And then comes the Blockbuster to End All Blockbusters. Or almost:

“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.


And there’s a tiny part of me that wonders how accurate all those blockbuster numbers are. I saw the film for the second time this past Saturday at 3:30PM in what is perhaps the last great movie house in Manhattan: the Clearview Ziegfeld. I arrived at 2:30 to meet up with my geek gang. There was no mob of geeks lined up to see the film. The screening was not sold out. The theater turned out to be only about half full. I was stunned, particularly when so many box-office watchers were in fact predicting this would be the biggest opening ever.

Now, granted: it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and my friends and I probably should have been playing outside. The film was playing in lots of other theaters (more than 8,500 screens at 4,133 sites across North America), so even within Manhattan there were plenty of other options for those who did want to be inside on a gorgeous day.

But still…

This was the Ziegfeld. This is the best place to see movies in this city. The presentation was digital, which I know some serious cineastes have a problem with but is nevertheless a big draw for plain ol’ movie geeks. Even given the sunny day and the plethora of multiplex choices, how does a two-and-a-half-hour a movie make $135.6 million in three days without selling out this house?

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One Comment

  1. I went Friday morning because that was the only time I could fit it in. 10am was sold out so I was forced to do the 11am. When we got out of the theater people were lining up everywhere and every show was reading as sold out. A couple days later I went to take some other people to see it and we couldn’t even park because the lot was full, nevermind get tickets and sit down. It’s selling out, just not at the Ziegfeld.

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