•“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Domestic box office so far: $380 million
Foreign box office so far: $392 million
When Mr. Zoradi met last year with his boss, Richard Cook, who is Walt Disney Studios’ chairman, to discuss the studio’s 2006 release schedule, they had a problem. Disney was distributing two expensive movies in the summer, the animated “Cars” and a sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But unlike earlier summers, it faced tough competition from the unlikeliest rivals — 20 sweaty men chasing a ball around a grassy field.
The World Cup soccer championships were scheduled to begin in Germany on June 9, just as the summer movie season moved into high gear. Both Mr. Zoradi and Mr. Cook knew that even the savviest marketing campaign was unlikely to coax fans from their television sets. So, Disney decided to release “Pirates of the Caribbean” over several weeks instead of on the same day worldwide.
Disney opened “Pirates” in the United States on July 7, two days ahead of the World Cup final match between France and Italy. That was not a problem. Among Americans, soccer is not as popular as it is overseas, and the American team had been eliminated early. Industry analysts pointed out, too, that the morning matches did not cut into evening movie attendance.
Europe proved more challenging. The international campaign for “Pirates” began on July 6, with releases in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. “We took a bet that England and Australia wouldn’t be in the World Cup finals,” Mr. Zoradi said.
It was a good guess. But there were other factors working in the movie’s favor. Not only was it a sequel, but the cast, including Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, was largely British.
“Pirates” opened No. 1 in all those markets, bringing in $25.3 million in Britain, $8.4 million in Australia and $1.2 million in New Zealand that first weekend. The studio then waited until July 12 — three days after the World Cup ended — to continue releasing “Pirates,” first in Scandinavia, then in the Netherlands, most of Asia, Latin America, Japan, Germany and, finally in August, France and Spain. The rollout ends in Italy on Sept. 13 because many movie theaters there are not air-conditioned and families are on vacation in August.
So what does Disney plan for its last installment of “Pirates?” With no major sports events planned, Disney is expecting a global release the last weekend in May 2007.