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Hollywood gamble uncovers box-office treasure

A movie based on a theme park ride looked like a big gamble. But it's turned out to be a box office treasure.  By CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
/ Source: CNBC

A movie based on a theme park ride looked like a big gamble. But it's turned out to be a box-office treasure. Now, the second installment of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' swashbuckles its way into theaters Friday.

"It’s bigger, it’s funnier, it’s scarier, it’s got romance and it has amazing action sequences you’ve never seen before, a villain that’s so fresh and so unique it's worth the price of admission itself," said Jerry Bruckheimer. And to think, Bruckheimer, one of Hollywood’s most successful producers almost passed on the 'Pirates' franchise altogether.

“When Dick Cook, who’s the head of Disney Films, called me and said ‘Do you want to do this film about Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Park Ride?,’ I said, ‘Oh boy, there goes my career,’” said Bruckheimer.

But, Bruckheimer saw promise in the project and asked the writers of ‘Shrek’ to tweak the script. After a few rewrites, he knew he had a winner.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, so you know what a good story is, you know what good characters are, you know what good themes are, you know what you like to see when you go to the movies. I don’t make movies for other people, I make movies for myself," said Bruckheimer.

With the first film netting almost $700 million worldwide so far, Bruckheimer immediately laid out plans to make a trilogy.

“The hard part in Hollywood is, especially after you have a huge success like ‘Pirates,’ everybody becomes enormously busy, so you have to either get them all together otherwise you wait four or five years before you have the next movie," said Bruckheimer.

And ‘Pirates’ may add to a strong summer with overall box office receipts up nearly 5 percent from last year. But Bruckheimer knows that success won't last if the content is not good.

“There’s a lot more money in Hollywood than there is talent. A lot of people can talk the talk and not walk the walk. It’s always about the product, if we don’t make movies that embrace an audience, they’re not going to go see it," said Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer remains bullish on Hollywood, saying that a transition in technology could soon make a big difference for raking in box-office profits.

“We’re moving from film to digital that in the next three to four years is going to happen, it’s a much better presentation, better sound, better picture, its easier to distribute, its cheaper to distribute, that will happen soon," said Bruckheimer.

Providing more flexibility for directors and producers to tweak their movies right up until their release dates. A luxury they are not afforded now.

“I don’t look at our films once they are out in the theaters anymore because I see all the mistakes we’ve made and I want to fix them and I can’t,” said Bruckheimer.

Another thorn in Bruckheimer’s side has a bit of irony to it.

“Our biggest problem is piracy. Our film will be in Asia before the films gets over to Asia,” he said.

And what about viral video outlets like YouTube?

“I think it’s wonderful, I think we find new talent there, get fresh ideas and people should be able to express themselves," said Bruckheimer.

As for ‘Pirates,’ Bruckheimer remains humble. “I hope it makes a nice profit for the studio, that’s all I can ask.”