Releasing a big-budget pirate film has always been a cursed practice in Hollywood. With money spent typically finding a watery grave in Davy Jones' Locker, it has been a practice paid in fool's gold. Well, until now.
Putting the buck in swashbuckler, Disney's
Turkey spirits left behind from Geena Davis' turn in Cutthroat Island and Kristy McNichol and Chris Atkins in The Pirate Movie have been lifted. The list of pirate flick duds at BoxOfficeMojo.com, which have averaged less than $30 million at the multiplex over the past two decades, has found the exception to the rule in Disney's bold gamble.
Folks had every reason to doubt Disney's decision to spend roughly $140 million on a film based loosely on -- but branded tightly to -- a popular theme park ride. The last time Disney spent heavily on a high-action pirate adventure, it wound up taking a hefty $47 million after-tax bath on Treasure Planet. The entertainment giant had also botched its first attempt to tie a movie to an existing attraction when The Country Bears flopped last year.
So in came the plundering Pirates with a clever script, an artsy cast, and a storyline that borrows from more popular recent blockbusters like The Mummy with its fleet of skeletal warriors.
It works. It's also cause for a great sigh of relief by Disney because another attraction-branded feature -- The Haunted Mansion -- hits theaters come November. But before it starts licking its chops and announces new projects like It's a Small World: Ride It or Turnstile Trouble at the Ticket and Transportation Center, let's hope it realizes that Pirates became a winner despite being anchored to a park ride -- not because of it.
The movie works surprisingly well not because it stayed the course, but rather because it veered off in an entirely different and fresh direction. That's where the gold lies.
What did you think of Pirates of the Caribbean? Was Disney just "Goofy" to start making live-action films based on its theme park attractions? Is this the kind of product branding that we'll be seeing more of in Hollywood? All this and more -- in theDisney discussion board. Only on Fool.com.