Battling box-office champs: 'Spider-Man' Vs. 'Pirates'

Piratespidey_lWow! A public brawl between Sony and Disney! As you may recall, Disney recently crowed that its Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End had earned $404 million worldwide in its first six days of release — a new record, in their eyes. This boast got Sony fuming, as the studio had just claimed that record a few weeks earlier with its own Spider-Man 3. So in an unprecedented move, Sony released a public statement in which they trumpeted some potential irregularities in Disney’s figures. That led the Mouse House to launch a pirate-like broadside in return, refuting accusations of shady accounting and pointing out that the discrepancy — a relatively minor $1.4 million — still gave Pirates the edge.

As a reporter who’s spent the last several years covering the film industry for the trades, I know just how crucial these numbers are to the public perception of both the movie and the studio. Especially a movie that costs a studio upwards of $300 million to make. Weekend grosses affect stock share price, influence the movie’s advertising, and have even become an odds-making subject in Vegas. Sony has long had a reputation for wanting to be first-at-all-costs with their film projects, so it’s not at all surprising that they would go toe-to-toe with Disney. What’s interesting to me is the fact that Pirates, even with a more-than-solid $153 million opening — the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend gross in the U.S. — still couldn’t top Spidey in any domestic record. Which forced Disney to look overseas for a victory.

Hollywood execs are calling for some standardization of international numbers. While that’s unlikely to happen (considering overseas accounting is a quagmire of different opening days and different theater policies), it may force studios to think twice before they breathlessly announce their newest record-breaking films. And with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opening globally on Wednesday July 11, it will be interesting to see how those international numbers get broken down and presented. So, PopWatchers, do you really care how much money a movie makes? Do box-office numbers affect your decision to see (or not see) a movie?

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  • Steve from Yellowstone

    If anything, these numbers become more meaningless by the year. Of course movies now will have these massive openings when tickets are 10$+ a piece.
    I’d be much more interesting in the actual ticket sales count, and use that as comparison to say Empire Strikes Back and the like.

  • Nix

    ‘Do box-office numbers affect your decision to see (or not see) a movie? ‘
    No. These days nothing affects my decision to not see a movie, any movie, in theatres. That said, the box office race has reached the point of cliche, if not become an actual detrimental factor to the marketing.

  • Orson Wellner

    Shia LaBeouf, Spiderman??? Is this true?

  • t3hdow

    What’s the point of all this Sony and Disney execs? Both films made a lot of money, so why the complaining over who’s right or not? Sheesh…

  • cg

    Its rather sad when a studio has to resort to claims that they cannot back up. POC was soundly beaten by SP3 and thats the end of the story-records were meant to be broken and this year is no exception!

  • mrclean

    yeah, the whole thing makes me want to stay home and watch law and order reruns…. you know, like I normally do.

  • FLIPPER

    Money means zip.
    And now is a good time for Capt. Jack and Spidey to appear in Celebrity Deathmatch.

  • Joe C

    Oh yes, I definitely care. It’s kinda like following the charts in pop music; always interesting to see who’s number 1. And certainly if a movie obtains blockbuster status, I’m more likely to see it rather than if a movie is critically acclaimed but flops. I trust the public more than the press.

  • No Brand Woman

    Box office numbers mean nothing to me. Norbit was #1 for the weekend it was released, but that didn’t make me feel inclined to see it at all. And no matter how much money Spider-man 3 has made, it’s the worst movie I’ve seen this summer and I saw Blades of Glory so that’s saying something. And I have no faith in PotC3 either, unfortunately. I think the money it makes is less of a sign of how good the movie is or how worthy it is of seeing and more of a sign on how well they promoted it through trailers and product tie-ins.

  • james

    I guess Disney and Sony only have the numbers to crow about… they certainly can’t find any good critical notices to post about either of their films. Boo to the threequels!

  • Hamburger Royal

    “Hollywood execs are calling for some standardization of international numbers.” And at the same time they tout Best-Start-On-A-Memorial-Day-Weekend, Best-President’s-Day-Opening-Like-Ever and Best-Ever-Opening-on-a-Rainy-Tuesday-In-July-With-A-Single-Digit-Date.

  • Smith or Smithy if you like

    You can’t ignore that Spider-Man3 opened against NO COMPETITION. Then in its second weekend, it tanked 60% with NO COMPETITION. That says a lot. Obviously word got out that the movie wasn’t that great. After this weekend, you won’t see Pirates dropping anywhere near that much because it’s a better quality script and film. If SM3 had opened against Pirates and Shrek, it wouldn’t have broken ANY records. It’s more of an accomplishment on Pirates’ part to make $153 million against two other “blockbusters” than Spidey’s $159 million against none. If I ran a race with no competitors, I would win first prize too. Big whoop.

  • No Brand Woman

    I agree very much with james and Smith or Smithy if you like. PotC3, Shrek the 3rd, and Spider-man 3 were all really big releases this summer. There is definitely a reason why they don’t all open on the same weekend. They don’t want to have to have any real competition for ticket sales! I mean, you put SM3 up against a film like Lucky You and who do you think is going to come out ahead?

  • C B H

    With the rising costs of going to the movies, I think one indicator of $$ in openings is that no one is going BACK to see the movies. They have the money to watch the film once, with their friends or such, on opening weekend. I wanted to see both Sp3 and PoC3, and I did. Only once, on opening weekend. I don’t have the money, if I preferred, to see either twice. So yeah, a LOT of movies open big, then fall.
    Yellowstone Steve said, count the # of tickets sold. That is a number I’d like to see.

  • brandonk

    In a way it’s kind of thrilling to see those amazing totals, but on the other hand, it doesn’t really affect my viewing habits (since I’m often a first-weekend viewer). I think there should definitely be less emphasis on how much money a film makes…for instance, Superman Returns didn’t really do that badly, and I really liked it, but it got a bad rap in large part due to its underperformance at the box office.

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