Bad Pirates!


In 2003, when Walt Disney Pictures premiered Pirates of the Caribbean, many industry watchers assumed that it would be a big box office disaster. Conventional wisdom was that pirate movies were disastrous undertakings. Why? For these reasons:   

The Pirate Movie was a bad decision from start to finish. They hired non-singers, gave them stupid, smutty songs to sing and made it about pirates. Anyone should have seen that the film was a bad idea regardless of content, but the pirate subject matter got the blame.

Pair up the worst Hollywood studio at the time with the fugitive director Roman Polanski and you get Pirates, an expensive, overlong disaster that made a fraction of its budget back. It's hard to tell how much money the studio lost on this one, however; Cannon Films was notorious about overstating film budgets as a means to defraud investors.

The film that seemingly put the final nail in the pirate film coffin was Cutthroat Island. A long, wild mess, the film starred Geena Davis and was directed by her then husband Renny Harlin. The disastrous production was an even bigger disaster at the box office, effectively killing pirate films for almost a decade.

With this background, it is easy to see how doubtful the industry was about Pirates of the Caribbean's success. But Captain Jack Sparrow was no conventional pirate and PotC was no conventional pirate film. Disney's Pirate film was a huge hit and now a multi-billion dollar franchise.