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Weekend Predictions: Can Cars 2 Keep Pixar's Winning Streak Alive?

June 23rd, 2011

While the summer blockbuster season starts the first weekend in May, for many school kids the summer is only just about to get into full gear. Cars 2 is arguably the most anticipated kids movie of the summer, possibly of the year. However, there are some signs it might not live up to past Pixar releases with a few predicting it might actually become the studio's first miss at the box office. This is bad news, as 2011 has started to fall further behind 2010's pace after a few bright weeks in late spring and early summer. This weekend last year wasn't particularly strong when it comes to new releases with Toy Story 3 repeating in top spot with just under $60 million, so there was an opportunity for the box office to recover some ground. Unfortunately, the number one film this year might not match that figure and there's not as much depth either.

One Pixar streak will end this weekend. The studio has never made a film that earned less than overall positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, until now. At the moment, Cars 2's Tomatometer Score is a mere 39% positive. The studio's previous low was earned by Cars at 74% positive. However, a lot of critics are complaining that this movie is strictly a kids movie... which is a bit of a strange complaint for a film aimed at kids. Granted, Pixar usually makes films aimed at adults that kids will also enjoy, but just making a kids movie is hardly a bad thing and despite the low Tomatometer Score, it might still become a major hit at the box office. Disney is predicting the film's opening weekend box office will be in the mid $40 million to the low $50 million range, but it makes sense to underestimate demand so as to claim victory when the weekend is over. Most analysts are expecting the film will make around $65 million, with some seeing it missing $60 million while a roughly equal number predicting it will make more than $70 million. I'm going to go with $66 million, which is in line with most Pixar films of the past, and likely enough for the movie to cross $200 million before all is said and done. With growing international box office numbers, and the film should easily break even before the home market, and that's not even taking into account the huge merchandising potential here.

The only other wide release of the week is Bad Teacher, which stars Cameron Diaz as the titular teacher, who is looking to marry a rich man so she can quit her much-hated job. It's an R-rated comedy, which is a genre that has produced two major hits already this summer, plus a sizable mid-level hit from earlier in the year. Will this film continue the run of success? The reviews are only mixed with a few critics complaining that the film doesn't go far enough given its rating. Additionally, the film is definitely counter-programing, unlike those other three films, which ended up being the biggest new releases the weekends they opened. This weekend last year saw the release of Knight and Day, which also starred Cameron Diaz. That film opened with a disappointing figure of just over $20 million. This film should top that, but it could be close. Look for just under $24 million and a solid second place debut.

Green Lantern disappointed critics but did relatively well with moviegoers to open with $53.17 million. However, those poor reviews and the Fanboy Effect could really hurt the film this weekend and falling more than 60% seems very likely. That would leave it with $20 million, give or take a million. I think the lower end is more likely and I'm going with $19 million over the weekend and a total of just over $90 million after two. It will have no trouble getting to $100 million domestically, but unless it is a bigger hit internationally and on the home market, or there is a boon in merchandising, it might never show a profit. And any plan for a trilogy is likely over. For that matter, Warner Bros. might be rethinking any further development of the D.C. Brand outside of Batman and Superman.

Super 8 won't hit $100 million this weekend, but it will come close with $12 million over the next three days for a total of $95 million after seventeen days. At this pace, the film will become somewhere between the 12th and 15th film released in 2011 to reach the century mark. (Cars 2, Green Lantern, and / or Transformers: Dark of the Moon could beat it to that milestone.) With a modest production budget of $50 million and a worldwide total of over $100 million, it is already a hit. If it can double that figure by the time it ends its international run, then it will show a profit before the home market.

Mr. Popper's Penguins has to deal with direct competition this weekend, but with better reviews it might earn pretty good legs. A sub 50% drop-off is expected and that should help the film remain just north of $10 million over the weekend. It should match its production budget domestically, and assuming it does respectable business internationally and on the home market, it should break even before too long.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Green Lantern, Cars 2, Bad Teacher, Super 8, Mr. Poppers's Penguins