LOS ANGELES -- The stars weren't famous enough. The running time was too long. The hype too great. The reviews devastating.
There are many explanations offered for why Disney's "Pearl Harbor" has fallen short of expectations since its star-spangled premiere on the deck of a Navy aircraft carrier a month ago.
Analyst Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source Inc., which tracks box office numbers, gives three reasons why the giant World War II epic has made only $160 million by its fourth week: "Competition, competition, competition."
Namely, a green ogre named "Shrek," a cyber-thriller called "Swordfish" and "Tomb Raider" Angelina Jolie.
"Anytime you have a Memorial Day opening, you will fail. You start off with a big bang and then it's inevitable that there will be sharp drop-offs," Bucksbaum said. He cited last year's "Mission: Impossible II" and 1998's "Godzilla" as other big movies that weakened quickly after opening on the holiday.
Nobody's saying "Pearl Harbor" is a box-office bomb. But when a film costs $140 million to make, and almost as much to market worldwide, expectations do run high.
Did Disney set itself up by creating unrealistic expectations?
In an e-mail sent to nearly 117,000 company employees worldwide just before the film opened, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner predicted "Pearl Harbor" would be the "biggest movie of the summer."
"There are no sure things in the entertainment industry, but this comes close," Eisner wrote. "I've been telling anybody who would listen that this will be our biggest live-action film ever."
It looks like Disney's most successful live-action film will remain the 1999 supernatural thriller "The Sixth Sense," which earned $660 million worldwide.
"Pearl Harbor" opened with $75.1 million, putting it behind 1997's "The Lost World" ($92.7 million) as the second best Memorial Day weekend opener.
Then the audience dropped 50 percent in the film's second and third weekends.
Meanwhile, "Pearl Harbor's" domestic ticket sales have yet to catch up with DreamWorks' animated hit "Shrek" ($188 million) and Universal's "The Mummy Returns" ($191 million), both of which have been in release only a few weeks longer.
Disney officials predict "Pearl Harbor" will earn about $200 million domestically and at least $250 million internationally. So far, it has racked up strong showings in key foreign markets such as Germany, Australia, Italy and Korea. But the major key to its global success will be its reception in Japan -- the top foreign market for American movies -- where it opens July 14.
Bucksbaum and other analysts predict the film will make only a modest profit.
"Pearl Harbor's" underachievement has shared blame for sending Disney's stock into a tailspin. The stock rose 13 percent the week the film opened, but has since fallen slightly lower than it was before, said David Miller, an entertainment and media analyst with Sutro and Co. in Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, the company said studio chief Peter Schneider would be stepping down after just 17 months.
To help keep production costs down, some cast and crew members made deals to be paid a percentage of profits rather than take large upfront fees. That may result in smaller-than-expected paychecks now.
The producer-director team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, responsible for the Disney live-action hits "Armageddon" and "The Rock," agreed to waive their "Pearl Harbor" salaries in lieu of a share of the profits after the film breaks even. Star Ben Affleck reportedly did the film for only $250,000 in exchange for 7 percent of profits.
Some say Affleck and co-stars Josh Harnett and Kate Beckinsale helped sink "Pearl Harbor's" numbers because they lacked the star power of, say, "Titanic's" Leonardo DiCaprio.
Others blame the generally negative reviews and the film's three-hour length, which limits the number of daily screenings. But Bucksbaum said critics' influence is negligible.
Studios "are always going to come up with reasons why a movie doesn't do well," he said.
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