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Weekend Preview: Pixar Turns it Up to Eleven

June 17th, 2010

Pixar releases its eleventh feature-length film this weekend. And considering its previous ten have all opened in first place (assuming you discount prestige limited releases) this is reason for Disney to celebrate. In fact, it could be reason for the industry as a whole to celebrate, considering more than 10 million tickets could be sold for this movie, which means more than 10 million people watching trailers for upcoming releases, seeing posters for new movies, etc. Compared to last year, Toy Story 3 could make more than the top five combined, which should help boost 2010's lead over 2009.

Toy Story was the first digitally animated feature-length film ever released. At the time it came out, a lot of people were skeptical about whether or not moviegoers would accept computer animated characters and worlds. Then again, a lot of people thought Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a mistake to make as well, yet 70 years later, it is still considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Thanks to perfect reviews, Toy Story became a huge hit and four years later, Toy Story 2 proved just as impressive, both with critics and moviegoers alike. Now, 15 years after the original was released, Toy Story 3 makes its debut in theaters and it has the nearly impossible task of living up to its predecessors. Very rarely has a film had this much pressure on it; the only two films that immediately spring to mind are Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and perhaps The Godfather 3. So how well have the folks at Pixar done, given the expectations put upon them?

Amazingly well, looking at its Tomatometer Score. So far the film has been reviewed by 77 critics, and all 77 have given the film a positive score resulting in the rare 100% perfect score. (Although Armond White hasn't posted his review yet, so that will probably change.)

As for the film's box office chances, those are equally rosy. Toy Story 3 should score an easy first place win while breaking Pixar's previous opening weekend record of $70.47 million currently held by The Incredibles. Not only are the reviews indescribable, but the built-in fanbase is immense, the buzz is deafening, and of course, it's in 3D, so the ticket prices are much higher than previous Pixar films. On the high end, the film could overtake Iron Man 2's opening becoming the biggest opening weekend of the year, at least for now. It might even finish the year with the biggest opening. However, $125 million is a little more likely. That is a little more bullish than most, but even on the low end, most people think it will top $100 million over the next three days.

The Karate Kid will be way back in second place, but how far back depends a lot on how much of its target audience flocks to Toy Story 3. Toy Story 3 has huge drawing power across all age demographics and can be considered direct competition for pretty much every other film in theaters, but especially for The Karate Kid, which has a younger target demographic. On the other hand, the film's reviews are very strong and perhaps young teenagers will want to see this movie again instead of going to see the G-rated Toy Story 3. On the low end, it should earn $28 million over the weekend to become the ninth film of the year to reach the $100 million mark. On the high end, it could add more than $33 million, which could put it on pace for $200 million.

The A-Team could see a massive drop-off in ticket sales this weekend. Not only is Toy Story 3 going to vacuum up most ticket sales, but the counter programming film, Jonah Hex, is direct competition for this film. Fortunately, this movie does have solid reviews, especially for the genre and target demographic, so it should avoid a complete collapse. That said, a 50% drop-off is all but assured. That would leave the film in third place with just over $12 million during its second weekend of release and close to $50 million in total.

Jonah Hex should be in quite a battle for third with The A-Team. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it opened in third place on Friday only to fade to fourth at the end of the weekend. The ad campaign is strong and that could get quite a few people into theaters on Friday, but the reviews are among the worst of the year. Reading the reviews, you will see a lot of praise for Josh Brolin, and pretty much nothing else. Best case scenario has the film earned third place with $15 million over the weekend and about $40 million in total. Worst case has it struggling to earn half that. I'm going with just under $12 million over the weekend and $30 million in total.

Rounding out the top five will be Shrek Forever After with $8 million over the weekend to lift its total to $225 million.

Finally there are a couple of box office milestones to get to as Iron Man 2 became the second film of the year to reach $300 million at the box office on its 40th day of release. The same day, Robin Hood hit $100 million -- the 8th film of the year to do so.


Filed under: The A-Team, Jonah Hex, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Robin Hood, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3