Update: Pirates of the Caribbean 4 screenwriter, Terry Rossio, has wrote on his blog denying the news that the film’s budget is being cut as LA Times report says. See below for details.

It’s no surprise that in these tough economic times, even movies aren’t safe. We’re hearing word that the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides is being scaled back in terms of production costs, which could affect how you, the audience, see the movie.

LA Times has run a piece detailing the lowering of the Pirates of the Caribbean 4 budget. The deal is that new Disney chairman Rich Ross is taking things in a new direction by trying to cut down costs on those big-budget special effects extravaganza’s that Pirates producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is known for.

On top of the current economic situation, there’s also things like DVD sales declining while production and marketing costs are rising. So naturally things are going to get squeezed at the ground level. Although the budget for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is still north of $200 million, the budget being imposed on Bruckheimer and Co. is at least a third less than the last movie.

To achieve this lower budget, there’s going to be fewer shooting days – dropping to between 90-95 when the last movie had 142 days. And there will be less visual effects shots than we’re used to from the franchise – the number is expected to be between 1,300-1,400 rather than the regular 2,000.

We'll see less amazing visual effects like this in Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

Although Bruckheimer maintains that, “the audience will never miss it,” he and director Rob Marshall (an unlikely choice to take the franchise out of Gore Verbinski’s hands) are still going through the script line-by-line and seeing where any costs can be cut. Said Marshall:

“This is by far the biggest budget I’ve ever worked with… We’re all working hard to keep it as lean as possible…. It’s a tricky time in the economy. You can’t be insane.”

I’m sure Bruckheimer wasn’t completely happy with being told he couldn’t splash out as lavishly on productions as he is accustomed to, but new Disney chairman Rich Ross assured him, as Bruckheimer explains:

“He [Ross] looked at me and said, ‘I will work with you to figure out the economics of the movies going forward because I understand what we are all facing.’ And I said two words: thank you.”

If you’re wondering how else these cut backs are going to affect what you get to see onscreen: some of the more extravagant action sequences are being changed or entirely cut. One in particular that is noted in LA Times’ article is an elaborate carriage chase where Captain Jack Sparrow is being chased through the streets of London – the original scheduled shooting time for that was 12 days but it’s been cut to 4-6 days.

Less extravagance for Captain Jack

Also, it’s noted that scriptwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are changing the script so that Captain Jack spends less time on the high seas and more time on land. It goes without saying the cost of shooting on water is a lot higher. But aren’t those maritime scenes crucial to make it a movie about, you know – pirates?…

Bruckheimer explained about what he thinks of having to change and cut things:

“The hard thing is you have to make painful decisions that cut into some very entertaining sequences… You have to figure out how to keep the movie very entertaining and give the audience more than what they expect and yet be cost-effective about it.”

If you’re interested you can read the rest of the details on the cost-cutting over at LA Times.

I doubt when all is said and done we as the audience will be shouting in anger at the screen when the next Pirates movie opens, because we haven’t seen what was there to miss. But still, with a movie like this you expect things to be as fantastic and awe-inspiring as possible (without turning it in a mess, as they did with Pirates 2 and 3) and evidently it’s not going to be quite as up to the level as most people would expect.

Of course, with less superficial eye-candy maybe some better storytelling will get done? We’ll have to wait and see.

Update: It appears that LA Times’ article might not bee entirely true, at least according to Pirates 4 screenwriter, Terry Rossio. He wrote on his blog that LA Times‘ report was written with a “slant” and what Bruckheimer and Marshall were saying (as quoted above) was misused as quotes. Although Rossio admits he doesn’t know what the budget of Pirates 4 will be yet, it’ll probably be higher than the first film, round about the same as the second and lower than the third. But at this point the budget hasn’t been set so, “there’s nothing to report.”

What do you think of all this (possible) cost-cutting with regards to Pirates of the Caribbean 4? Who do you believe: LA Times’ report that the cost is being cut on the movie or the screenwriter who says the budget hasn’t been set yet?

Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides begins filming on June 14th this year in Hawaii, and already has a confirmed release date of May 20th, 2011.

Source: LA Times (via /Film) & WordPlayer