Pirates invaded theaters around the country last night. Celluloid ones, of course. Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End began its cinematic run, heading into what should be a very busy Memorial Day weekend at your local multiplex.
My local AMC was screening the film on eight of its 24 screens, and all of the 8 p.m. showings were sold out. Clocking in at a chunky 2 hours and 45 minutes, the lengthy time will mean fewer showings per day than a theater operator can squeeze out of, say, a 93-minute showing of DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE: DWA ) Shrek the Third. Keep that in mind when you assume that the third installment in Disney's swashbuckling franchise will clean house just because it's opening on a record 4,362 stateside screens this weekend.
But who are we kidding here? The film is going to be huge. Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) Spider-Man 3 shattered the opening weekend record earlier this month while running a beefy 2 hours and 20 minutes. It did so with 38 fewer screens, a record at the time.
The fact that screen records are being broken as seamlessly as perforated ticket stubs should be encouraging for the multiplex industry. Obviously, it's growing again. Last month's IPO of Cinemark Holdings (NYSE: CNK ) would seem to indicate so, even if AMC pulled back on its market debut a few trading days later. Regal (NYSE: RGC ) , AMC, and Cinemark are the country's three largest movie theater operators.
For Disney, this is more than just a movie. It's based on one of Disney's oldest theme park attractions. The theatrical success led to movie-based enhancements to the ride, making it even more popular. Disney has also been able to cash in on the popularity of its Disney Princesses line, coupling Pirates and Princesses to create in-park special ticketed events that appeal to both sexes.
So let Jack Sparrow and his crew search for treasure. Disney has already found its stash.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wants to remind you to order your tickets early if you're heading out to the movies over the weekend. Yes, he owns shares of Disney and DreamWorks Animation. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.