The declining popularity around Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies continues — in the U.S., at least — with the release of Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Dead Men is pacing toward the series’ second-lowest opening in the U.S., after the 2003 original. The Curse of the Black Pearl opened with $46.6 million domestically, but back then it was also an unproven blockbuster based — seemingly impossibly, at the time — on a theme park ride.
Pirates‘ fortunes improved in subsequent releases, with the second, third, and fourth movies opening at $135.6 million (2006), $114.7 million (2007), and $90.2 million (2011), respectively. While that downward trend in opening weekends suggests diminishing interest in the series among U.S. audiences, the opposite is true at the foreign box office.
Disney’s success has only increased with each successive Pirates. The first movie finished at $350.2 million overseas, but the next iterations went bigger: $642.9 million in 2006, $654 million in 2007, and $804.6 million in 2011.
Dead Men is already up to $208.4 million in foreign ticket sales after a near-simultaneous global opening that includes key markets like the U.K. and China.
The weaker U.S. start could speak to waning excitement over Pirates star Johnny Depp. The actor has been chased over the past year by allegations of domestic abuse and a subsequent divorce; a dispute with Australia over his dogs; and unusual revelations regarding his life behind the cameras.
There’s also the fact that critics have basically eviscerated Dead Men Tell No Tales, though reviews aren’t always the best measure of public interest when it comes to summer blockbusters.
Pirates still managed to deliver an opening weekend win, with an easy finish ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Now in its fourth weekend, the Guardians sequel — which picked up an estimated $19.9 million domestically — is doing just fine, with a cumulative total of $333.2 million in the U.S. contributing to a worldwide box office of $783.3 million.
That said, Guardians‘ chances of cracking a $1 billion box office are looking less and less likely. Marvel moved the sequel back to an early May opening following the original’s early August success. With summer blockbusters already arriving — and more yet to come — another $200-plus million for Guardians 2 might be a stretch.
Newcomer Baywatch falls in at #3 for the weekend, with an estimated $18.1 million domestically. That’s a rough start by most measures, and there’s not much of an overseas box office to look at yet.
Most of the overseas openings for Baywatch are set for June. More importantly: China, one of the largest film markets in the world, has no release date set at all. With a budget that reportedly hovers around $70 million, it’s looking like Paramount will struggle to break even with this one.
That’s not the only weekend bust. Baywatch comes in ahead of #4 finisher Alien: Covenant, which earned an estimated $10.5 million. Alien opened last week with a Guardians-toppling $36.2 million first place finish.
The Ridley Scott-directed Prometheus follow-up — with a reported budget of close to $100 million — will seemingly find most of its success in foreign ticket sales. It’s already up to an estimated $86.2 million overseas, and it doesn’t open in China until mid-June.
Just for context: Prometheus finished its domestic theatrical run in 2012 with $126.5 million in ticket sales, plus an additional $276.9 million from foreign audiences — and it never even opened in China. Covenant is pacing for a far lower finish domestically, but its fortunes could easily be buoyed if the solid overseas performance continues.