How do you follow up a film that just enjoyed the biggest opening in movie history?
Keep your mouth shut.
That was the strategy behind releasing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
this weekend and will likely be Disney's plan with the third installment in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
, due May 25.
Analysts say that one of the keys to Pirates
' success was that, in a summer rife with over-hype and blitzkrieg marketing, the Johnny Depp adventure had a comparatively understated campaign.
Though Disney spent millions in ads, executives opened the movie on a traditionally slow weekend, after the July Fourth holiday. Instead of saturating the market with ads more than a month before its opening, as Mission: Impossible III
and The Da Vinci Code
waited until three weeks before its debut for a full-on push.
Part of the work, experts say, had been done for Disney. The 2003 original, The Curse of the Black Pearl
, took in $305.4 million and was a hit on DVD.
"They let the movies do most of the talking," says Gitesh Pandya of boxoffice guru.com box-office trackers. "There was a built-up appetite. Certainly, Disney spent a healthy amount marketing this time. But relatively speaking, it was a quiet movie."
Disney executives even refused to discuss the movie's prospects when early tracking suggested that it could break the record for biggest debut.
"We were afraid to even think that out loud," says Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane. "You don't want to appear cocky because it can work against you."
But when Viane visited a theater in Woodland Hills, Calif., for a midnight screening Thursday, he knew that the studio had sold the movie well.
"I expected to see teenagers," he says. "But there were families and 10-year-olds — at a midnight screening. People were in costume.
"When you see people in pirate costumes at your movie, it's a safe bet they've been waiting for it."