Bests 'Potter' record set in 2009

Embracing the power of the ‘plex, Disney’s boatload of pirates brought down the boy wizard.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” sailed to $260.4 million overseas, besting Warner Bros.’ $236 million opening for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” set in 2009.

But “Stranger Tides” had a considerable advantage going into the weekend, bowing at nearly 20,000 locations in more than 100 markets, making it the most expansive international bow of all time. The “Potter” pic debuted at roughly 15,800 locations in 64 overseas markets.

“Pirates” easily ruled the worldwide box office over the May 20-22 weekend, posting a global take of $350.5 million. And while the fourth “Pirates” installment was expected to be dominant worldwide, the film also broke records in plenty of individual markets.

In Russia, “Stranger Tides” commandeered the territory’s biggest opening weekend in industry history. Pic bowed with $31.4 million, boosted by a healthy 70% 3D share that outstripped the entire local cume of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

“Stranger Tides” added $21.9 million in China, the franchise’s best opening there, and second-highest ever in the territory behind “Avatar.” (Disney reported its revised Chinese figure May 24; China Film Group released earlier estimates totaling $18.9 million).

Pic also scored the biggest “Pirates” opening ever in Germany, with $19.7 million, and swashbuckled to $18.8 million in the U.K. and $18.5 million in Japan.

In Spain, “Stranger Tides” played 465 engagements on 1,090 screens — an all-time high in that market — collecting between $9 million and $10 million. Pic’s Spanish booty was slightly below expectations, with one local exhib saying, “They’re nice figures, but they’re not superb.”

Says another booker: “The campaign has been overwhelming, but the results were just pretty good. The franchise may have lost some of its stamina.”

Disney’s global launch for “Stranger Tides” was meant to capitalize on the franchise’s overseas popularity, mostly due to star Johnny Depp, but the pic also is four years removed from the last “Pirates” offering. That had some B.O. pundits, especially in the U.S., questioning whether “Stranger Tides” would have enough wind behind its sails to glide past its predecessors.

Pic’s $90 million Stateside opening landed behind the previous two “Pirates” installments, but it’s clear the pic found safe harbor in most other ports around the world.

Despite the international dominance of “Stranger Tides,” Universal had measured success, with No. 2-ranked “Fast Five” still pulling down $26.6 million from 58 territories. “Fast Five” has become one of the year’s hottest titles, cuming more than $322 million overseas. Pic’s worldwide tally stands at $510 million, which makes it the year’s top grosser — that is until Hollywood unleashes the rest of its summer slate.

“Pirates” also likely will outpace “Fast Five” given its boffo start, but the U pic has solid holdover territories like China, which contributed $3.9 million in “Fast Five’s” second week there on the way to an $18.2 million cume, already U’s second-highest grossing film ever in that territory.

Brazil, with $2.3 million, was the No. 2 market for “Fast Five,” followed by Mexico and Germany, posting holdover weekend takes of $2.2 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

The film’s take in Germany, down just 48%, is especially impressive considering “Stranger Tides” commandeered 76% of the entire German box office. “Fast Five” has cumed $24 million after four weeks in Germany, while 17 days of playtime in Mexico has yielded $21.6 million for the film.

“Fast Five” has just two overseas markets in which it has yet to open: Venezuela on June 3 and Japan in October.

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Clifford Coonan in Beijing, Ed Meza in Berlin, David Hayhurst in Paris, Nick Vivarelli in Rome and Mark Schilling in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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