If you’re the Walt Disney Company today, you’ll happily argue that the continuing focus on the domestic box office market is a bit overrated. After negative reviews and a relatively disappointing $233.7 million in the U.S., “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has been nothing more than a sensation overseas garnering $774 million in theatrical revenue. Combined, that puts “On Stranger Tides” at a staggering $1.007 billion in worldwide ticket sales passing “The Dark Knight’s” $1.001 billion on the all-time list.
“On Stranger Tides” now ranks at no. 7 on the top grossers ever just behind another Disney title, “Alice in Wonderland,” which it should pass sometime in the next month. “Dead Man’s Chest” and “Toy Story 3” rank fourth and fifth with $1.066 and $1.063 billion respectively and are not out of Captain Jack Sparrow’s reach. For those keeping track at home, that gives Walt Disney Studios four of the seven biggest movies of all-time. The top three, on the other hand, are safe from a pirate’s plundering. “Avatar” ranks no. 1 with $2.782 billion, “Titanic” is no. 2 with $1.84 billion and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is solidly at no. 3 with $1.119 billion. These tallies do not reflect the number of ticket sold, higher 3-D ticket prices or, most importantly, inflation. For instance, if inflation is taken into account domestically, “Gone With the Wind” is a clear no.1 followed by “Star Wars” and “The Sound of Music.” “Titanic” would rank no. 6 and “Avatar” no. 15.
“On Stranger Tides” is easily the biggest hit in the careers of director Rob Marshall, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush. At the moment, Depp still has “Dead Man’s Chest” as his top grosser, but if you want to know why Disney will be pushing for “Pirates 5” and “Pirates 6” over the next few years, the box office tells the tale.
Among upcoming releases, the only film that might challenge “On Stranger Tides” ranking in the global top ten is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2.” Not only is it the final film in the franchise, but it’s the first “Harry Potter” arriving in 3D with those notoriously higher ticket prices. In 2012, “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” could drastically change the all time rankings.