Widely hyped movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” drew mixed reviews Wednesday ahead of a weekend debut that Hollywood is anxiously awaiting for a boost to its solid but uninspiring summer box office.
“Too much of what was a good thing,” a Los Angeles Times headline said of Disney’s swashbuckling sequel, although the full review described the film as “intermittently fun and high-spirited.”
The Hollywood Reporter called the special effects “envelope-pushing” and praised Johnny Depp’s performance as quirky pirate captain Jack Sparrow, but it panned the story in which Sparrow confronts the evil Davy Jones.
On the Web site rottentomatoes.com, which compiles reviews, the movie scored a 68 percent “fresh” rating.
Richard Horgan, film commentator for Fandango.com, said one of every three advance tickets sold by the online ticket service this week was for “Dead Man’s Chest.” That is roughly twice the rate posted by its precursor, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” in 2003.
“Personally, I think it’s going to be a monster” at box offices, he said of the sequel.
Hollywood needs a huge hit after a string of major films — “Mission: Impossible III,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Cars” — racked up solid box office but fell short of the eye-popping business generated by the “Spider-Man” and “Star Wars” movies.
Similarly this past week, “Superman Returns” opened over the long Independence Day holiday in the United States to a final tally of $108 million in its first week, according to the Warner Bros. film studio. The number was good, but not super.
‘Pirates’ to the rescue?“It has not been an exciting summer,” said Brandon Gray, president of Boxofficemojo.com. “There is no major blockbuster everyone can get behind. The hope is that ’Pirates’ is that blockbuster.”
To date, U.S. summer movie ticket sales stand at roughly $1.84 billion, up 2.3 percent from last year but down 9.5 percent from 2004, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
Moreover, movie attendance as measured by the number of people buying tickets is down about 1 percent from 2005 and off 15 percent from 2004.
That is an ominous sign because the summer movie season, which runs from the first week of May through August, is typically used by Hollywood to launch its most expensive movies and accounts for as much as 40 percent of total annual ticket sales.
The success of “Dead Man’s Chest” is especially pivotal. There seem to be few movies in the next eight weeks capable of matching the commercial clout of 2005’s July-August combination of surprise comedy hits “Wedding Crashers” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” which ended up grossing $209 million and $109 million, respectively, box office watchers said.
Despite “Crashers” and “Virgin,” last summer’s overall box office ended with revenues totaling $3.62 billion, down 8.5 percent from 2004’s $3.96 billion, Exhibitor Relations said.
But “Dead Man’s Chest” has a lot of momentum headed to theaters as the sequel to mega-hit “Curse of the Black Pearl,” which raked in $305 million in domestic receipts. Like the original, the new film also stars Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who are very popular with audiences.