Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Cars 2 Finishes First

Plus, Bad Teacher has solid opening, and Green Lantern falls big.

by | June 27, 2011 | Comments

This weekend, two new releases opened big as Pixar’s 3D animated sequel Cars 2 and the raunchy Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher both excited their target audiences pumping in nearly $100M worth of ticket sales at the North American box office.

Scoring its twelfth number one hit, Pixar’s Cars 2 finished in first place by a mile with an estimated $68M during its opening weekend making for the fourth biggest June debut ever behind Toy Story 3 ($110.3M), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($109M), and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($93.7M). The Disney release raced into 4,115 theaters – a new high for a Pixar toon – and averaged a stellar $16,525. The strength of the Pixar brand and the Cars franchise meant more to audiences than the flood of negative reviews from critics who gave the animation studio what were by far its worst marks ever.

Audiences continued to show their distrust of 3D as those screens contributed just 40% of the gross. That follows opening weekend shares of 45% for Kung Fu Panda 2 last month and 56% for Rio in April despite the fact that Pixar has always been the leader of computer animation. Among Pixar films, the Cars 2 opening was on par with the $68.1M of 2009’s Up which was the first 3D offering from the studio but, as expected, well below the launch of Toy Story 3 from a year ago.

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In the world of cartoons, Cars has been one of the most successful brands when it comes to merchandising, consistently selling products long after the original film bowed to $60.1M in June 2006. That free in-home advertising helped the sequel. Film critics may have rejected Cars 2, but kids were truly excited and they – and their parents – are the ones who spend at the box office. And those customers liked the spy-themed sequel as the CinemaScore grade was an A-. With a hefty budget of $200M, Cars 2 has a long road ahead of it to make back the production and marketing costs. However since Pixar films usually reach about four times their opening weekend tallies, this one could match or exceed the $244.1M of its predecessor. Plus overseas grosses should get a major shot in the arm thanks to a strong international market for 3D and the film’s global setting that takes the story to Tokyo, Paris, London, and the Italian Riviera.

Cameron Diaz enjoyed one of the best openings of her career with the raunchy school comedy Bad Teacher which powered well ahead of expectations to debut to an estimated $31M. The Sony release averaged a terrific $10,167 from only 3,049 locations and played best to adult women who have been underserved in recent weeks thanks to male-skewing action films topping the charts all month leading into this weekend. Reviews were mixed though more negative than positive, and audiences did not find it all that enjoyable either with the CinemaScore grade being a disappointing C+. But starpower from Diaz along with co-stars Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake helped to drive in business as did an interesting story involving a foul-mouthed and underachieving middle school teacher trying to score herself a sugar daddy. The studio’s marketing push was effective too.

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Films that Diaz has anchored solo have generally fared poorly at the box office while those with other famous co-stars have opened better but still below Teacher. Last summer’s Knight & Day with Tom Cruise bowed to $20.1M (with $27.4M over 5 days) while 2008’s What Happens in Vegas with Ashton Kutcher debuted to $20.2M. Her overall top openings have come from the Shrek and Charlie’s Angels franchises which were much more expensive productions compared to her new R-rated comedy which reportedly cost only $20M. Exit polls showed that 63% of the crowd was female and 57% was 25 and older. With nothing similar to Bad Teacher opening over next weekend’s Independence Day holiday session, the studio hopes to keep attendance high for at least another week so it can get on track to reach the $100M mark.

The big budget super hero pic Green Lantern collapsed in its second weekend tumbling 66% to an estimated $18.4M giving the studio a disappointing $89.3M in the first ten days. That was less than what past June comic book films have done in the same amount of time including 2005’s Batman Begins ($103.2M), 2003’s Hulk ($100.6M), 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($97.5M), and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk ($97.1M). The Marvel heroes all finished in the $130-135M range while Christopher Nolan’s Caped Crusader reboot had good legs and topped $200M. Given the public’s rejection of Green Lantern, and Tuesday night’s arrival of the newest Transformers film, a lackluster final domestic take of around $120-125M may result. Overseas results for Warner Bros. have not been too strong so far.

In its third weekend, the sci-fi thriller Super 8 collected an estimated $12.1M for fourth place. Off 44%, the $50M Paramount release has taken in a solid $95.2M and may end its run with an impressive $125-135M. Produced for one-fourth of the budget of Green Lantern and backed by a less costly marketing campaign, Super 8 should end up with a larger domestic gross.

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Fox grabbed the next two spots with its latest summer titles. The Jim Carrey family comedy Mr. Popper’s Penguins held up moderately well in its second weekend despite new competition for kids dropping 44% to an estimated $10.3M. With $39.4M in ten days, a $70M final seems likely. The super hero pic X-Men: First Class grossed an estimated $6.6M, down 45%, giving the studio $132.8M to date.

R-rated wedding comedies The Hangover Part II and Bridesmaids kept bringing in audiences with estimates of $5.9M and $5.4M, respectively. The Warner Bros. sequel fell 42% and has banked $243.9M to date while Universal’s sleeper sensation eased by only 24% putting the remarkable total at $146.7M. Both Bridesmaids and Super 8 have displayed good legs and will be very profitable proving that good filmmaking can often trump lavish marketing at the box office.

Rounding out the top ten were two films from opposite ends of the budget spectrum. Disney’s pricey 3D fourquel Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides slipped only 29% to an estimated $4.7M boosting the domestic tally to $229.1M. Woody Allen’s modestly priced runaway hit Midnight in Paris dipped by a scant 8% to an estimated $4.5M giving Sony Classics $28.6M to date. A final gross topping $50M is not out of the question.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $166.8M which was up 8% from last year when Toy Story 3 stayed in the top spot with $59.3M in its second frame; but down 13% from 2009 when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened at number one with $109M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

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