How did Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gross so much internationally so rapidly? Jeremy Kay reports

After just five weeks on release (June 19), Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth entry in Disney’s Pirates canon, ranked as the fourth biggest international release and the 11th biggest film in the world of all time. It had plundered $731.9m internationally, $956.8m worldwide, with $220.3m in North America alone.

Such has been the pace of the film’s ticket sales, On Stranger Tides is set to overtake 2003’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King to rank as the third biggest name ever in the international pantheon. The top two — James Cameron’s Titanic on $1.2bn and Avatar on $2bn — look safe for a while yet.

Globally, On Stranger Tides has glided past Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and it is just a matter of time before it overhauls 2007’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End (see chart, below). It remains to be seen whether it has the power to catch Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, on $1.07bn worldwide, to become the biggest film in the franchise at the global box office.

What is perhaps most surprising about such a phenomenal run is that On Stranger Tides has received only luke-warm reviews, though probably better than those of At World’s End. Yet in five wild weeks at the global box office, it has shown little sign of losing momentum.

Disney knew it could pick its release date, aware rival studios would be falling over themselves to steer clear

Walt Disney Studios knew when it planned the release 19 months ago it had a heavyweight contender. The series had amassed approximately $2.7bn at the global box office up to that point and it could pick its date, aware rival studios would fall over themselves to steer clear. Sure enough they did and On Stranger Tides delivered the goods over the day-and-date opening weekend (May 13) amassing an international record $256.3m and taking $346.4m globally.

This speaks volumes about the value of a renowned brand and in particular the character of Jack Sparrow, the anarchic swashbuckler brought to life by Johnny Depp. Sparrow is one of the most beloved pop-culture creations of the past decade.

With no Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair or Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom as the star-crossed lovers, Disney hired Rob Marshall to direct — and serve up an ever bigger slice of Depp’s Sparrow. Penelope Cruz was brought in as the love interest and Ian McShane hired to portray the fearsome Blackbeard.

Pirates on tour

To promote the film the cast travelled to Moscow, Tokyo and of course Cannes, where On Stranger Tides played out of competition. And the film has delivered spectacularly well throughout Europe, the Middle East, Nordic region and Latin America. It ranks as the second biggest release of all time in Russia on $62.8m and counting, and has amassed $69.5m in China, where an exponential growth in screen count since At World’s End in 2007 has paved the way for rich rewards.

On Stranger Tides has gone further in two other markets, returning $74.1m from Germany, Austria and Switzerland combined, and a stunning $87.5m from Japan, where it has been the highest grossing film for its first five weeks on release. The UK has generated $50.7m.

To date, the film has made approximately 64% of its international gross from 3D screens. It crossed $900m globally in 29 days and reached $800m after 20, becoming the second fastest release to reach that mark after Avatar’s 19 days. It reached $700m in a record 16 days and equalled the 12-day $600m speed record set by At World’s End in 2007, eventually becoming Disney’s fifth release to cross $600m internationally. As of June 19, On Stranger Tides is the biggest global release of the year to date.

Pirates 4: first five weeks

Japan: $87.5m
China: $69.5m
Russia: $62.8m
Germany: $56.9m
UK: $50.7m
France: $42m
Brazil: $28.6m
Mexico: $27.8m
Australia: $27.3m
South Korea: $25.1m
Italy: $24.4m
Spain: $24m
Benelux: $18.7m
Sweden: $11.1m
Argentina: $11m
Norway: $8.7m
Turkey: $6.8m
Hong Kong: $5.8m

Worldwide top 10, 2011 to date*

1Pirates…On Stranger TidesWalt Disney SMPI$952.2m
2Fast & Furious 5Universal Pictures Int’l$591.8m
3The Hangover Part IIWarner Bros$488.7m
4Rio20th Century Fox$465.3m
5ThorParamount Pictures Int’l$435.2m
6Kung Fu Panda 2Paramount Pictures Int’l$423.3m
7X-Men: First Class20th Century Fox$282.0m
8RangoParamount Pictures Int’l$242.1m
9The Green HornetSony Pictures Releasing Int’l$227.8m
10Just Go With ItSony Pictures Releasing Int’l$214.9m

*As of June 19; Source: Box Office Mojo

Worldwide top 10, all time

1Avatar20th Century Fox$2.78bn
2Titanic20th Century Fox$1.84bn
3LOTR: The Return Of The KingNew Line$1.12bn
4POTC: Dead Man’s ChestWalt Disney SMPI$1.07bn
5Toy Story 3Walt Disney SMPI$1.06bn
6Alice In WonderlandWalt Disney SMPI$1.02bn
7The Dark KnightWarner Bros$1bn
8Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s StoneWarner Bros$974.7m
9POTC: At World’s EndWalt Disney SMPI$963.4m
10Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1Warner Bros$954.5m

Source: Box Office Mojo