Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides swooped in with the top-grossing weekend of the year so far. The supernatural swashbuckler claimed an estimated $90.1 million at 4,155 locations, edging out Fast Five’s $86.2 million launch. That was also the 12th highest-grossing May opening ever, but, since close to half of On Stranger Tides’ gross was from 3D presentations at a record 2,747 locations (and due to today’s general ticket prices), its estimated attendance level would rank 27th.
Relative to its predecessors, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sank: At World’s End drew $114.7 million on its first weekend in May 2007 (not including $13.2 million in Thursday night previews), while Dead Man’s Chest raked in a then-record $135.6 million opening weekend back in July 2006. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, those grosses would be the equivalent of $131 million and $163 million, respectively.
Since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was the franchise establisher, its early grosses were in a lower league, though still bustling ($70.6 million in its five-day launch, or $92 million adjusted). On Stranger Tides’s start was also less than that of the last Johnny Depp spectacle Alice in Wonderland, which began with $116.1 million.
On the plus side, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ opening held better relative to its predecessor than Shrek Forever After’s did on the same weekend last year. On Stranger Tides was always destined to debut lower than At World’s End and Dead Man’s Chest, given the mixed reaction to those movies and how the audience lost interest with At World’s End.
Sealing the deal was On Stranger Tides’ lower key approach: it came off as just another Pirates movie in its marketing and lacked stand-out visual and character moments. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures’ exit polling indicated that 54 percent of On Stranger Tides’ audience was male and 54 percent was over 25 years old (the age 26-34 group was most represented at 24 percent, followed by 18-25 with 22 percent).