The heat is on for Disney (search). Their first PG-13 movie under the Disney banner, Pirates of the Caribbean, made a good debut yesterday.
The Johnny Depp (search ) action comedy based on the famous Disney theme park ride took in $13.5 million. It's not a record breaker, but it's good enough. The studio can relax for the moment.
Pirates got kind of weird reviews when it opened yesterday. Most of them delighted in Depp's performance, but questioned how much of the movie seemed like other movies ... or like the theme park ride. As such, Pirates will have to strike quickly over the weekend to make the lion's share of its domestic gross. Its budget is said to be in the $120-150 million range.
Luckily for Pirates, the movie-going audience doesn't seem too thrilled with any other releases right now. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde are all middling hits. The Hulk isn't even that. So if Pirates can bring in the kids between now and Sunday, Michael Eisner will be able to sleep soundly.
Disney also has Finding Nemo out there. Still the big hit of the season, Nemo is 50 percent owned by another studio, Pixar. But half is better than nothing, isn't it? Since Disney's own animation studio is in a lull right now, every little bit helps.
Meanwhile, the summer flops are just sitting there, making everyone nervous. Alex and Emma, The Core, The In-Laws, Down With Love, and Hollywood Homicide are all magnificent multi-hundred-million-dollar write-offs. Next up: Angelina Jolie in the second chapter of the video game movie, Tomb Raider.
And the cleverest hit of the season: Bend It Like Beckham, which has $25 million in the till here. In Europe, soccer player David Beckham and his wife Victoria are all the rage. They're the No. 1 celebrities for no reason. People love them and have no idea why. When they speak, they are like actors from silent films who open their mouths and squeak.
But in the U.S. nothing, except for this movie. The funny part is that this may be Beckham's biggest success here and it has nothing do with him. It's just that kids play soccer. It's a niche market. Go figure.