News

$70M Fantastic for 'Incredibles'

by Brandon Gray
November 8, 2004

The Incredibles lived up to its title and to its more marvelous Pixar pedigree, kicking off the 2004 holiday season in super fashion.

Bounding onto 7,600 screens across 3,933 theaters, the $92 million computer-animated adventure about a family of superheroes took in $70.5 million, edging out Finding Nemo's $70.3 million as distributor Buena Vista's biggest ever. It also flew past Monsters, Inc.'s $62.6 million as the all-time top animated debut outside of summer. For 2004, it's the fifth biggest opening behind Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spider-Man 2 and The Passion of the Christ.

Studio exit polling indicated that 62% of opening weekend moviegoers were families, comparable to Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, and there was a 50/50 split between males and females. The under-25-years-old set accounted for 57% of the audience. "The percentage of teens is higher than the norm, but for the most part it's similar to the previous Pixar movies," Buena Vista senior vice president and general sales manager Chris LeRoy told Box Office Mojo. "It really is playing across the board. I think it's one of those rare movies where the critics and the audiences agree."

Breaking the weekend down, The Incredibles grabbed $20.5 million on Friday and leapt 44% on Saturday to $29.5 million—exceeding Finding Nemo's $28.0 million as Buena Vista's top single day gross ever. That Saturday boost was halfway between Monsters, Inc.'s 49% bump and Finding Nemo's 39%. It dipped 31% on Sunday to $20.4 million.

Pixar is now six for six, reaching blockbuster status every time since it pioneered the genre with Toy Story in 1995. Their first five movies alone have earned $2.6 billion worldwide. "They're good storytellers," LeRoy offered as the secret to Pixar's success. "They consistently deliver."

From the beginning, Pixar understood that dazzling technology must be secondary to a universally-appealing story—adults remember childhood toys they may have pretended were alive (Toy Story) or being afraid of the monster in the closet (Monsters, Inc.). The trend continues with The Incredibles, despite such Pixar firsts as human main characters and a PG rating instead of the usual G. Written and directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant), it deals with issues of family, yet taps into heightened interest in superheroes without tying itself to fleeting references.

The relationship between Pixar and Disney will end with their next picture Cars, teased in front of The Incredibles and scheduled for release on Nov. 4, 2005.

With no Lord of the Rings or the like for the first time in several years, The Incredibles was always the movie to beat this holiday season. It faces direct competition starting Wednesday from Warner Bros.' ambitious, computer-animated The Polar Express and then on Nov. 19 from Paramount's Nickelodeon-based traditionally animated The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, but this time of year is often packed with family offerings and there is room for all to find an audience.

Jude Law's third of six movies this year, Alfie, wooed $6.2 million from 2,215 theaters. The $60 million remake of the 1966 Michael Caine drama fittingly skewed 69% female and 69% over the age of 25, according to distributor Paramount. Though anemic overall, the studio noted that the picture about an unrepentant womanizer did considerably better on the coasts and in Chicago than in the rest of the nation, suggesting that the conservative tide evidenced in last week's election may have hurt.

What really did Alfie in was a genre that needs a catchy hook, like What Women Want's mind-reading antics, or substantial and distinctive star power, like Hugh Grant in About a Boy or Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give. Law is a respected and handsome actor (and notoriously prolific this year), but he has yet to display the personality to anchor a picture. In essence, Alfie was a star vehicle without a star (nor a star-making presence like the Caine version). The tagline vaguely read "What's it all about?" (from the original's famous title song), but the marketing—neither scandalous nor expository enough—did not make us care to seek out the answer.

Paramount will continue to rely on remakes in the near future despite middling results from this year's crop, including The Stepford Wives and The Manchurian Candidate. The studio's pipeline features The Longest Yard, The War of the Worlds, The Bad News Bears, Last Holiday, The Sons of Katie Elder, Pet Sematary, The Eye and The Warriors—not to mention a sequel to a remake, The Italian Job 2.

Ray held at No. 2 with $13.6 million at 2,463 venues, down 32% after adding 457 sites. With $39.6 million banked in 10 days, the $40 million Ray Charles biopic has the commercial clout to carry star Jamie Foxx through awards season.

Thrillers The Grudge and Saw nabbed $12.7 million and $11.1 million respectively, each down about 40% in solid post-Halloween holds. Sony now expects The Grudge to reach $110 million, and sequels to both pictures are in the works—Lions Gate has already scheduled Saw 2 for Oct. 28, 2005.

Shall We Dance enjoyed the smallest drop of all wide releases, easing 10% to $5.7 million. In 24 days, the dance romance remake has earned $42.1 million, compared to the $30.5 million of fellow Oct. 15 opener Team America: World Police. Though it's still kicking at the box office, Miramax has announced a Feb. 1 street date for the DVD—just three and a half months after it hit theaters. Also making its DVD debut on that day will be the original 1997 Japanese movie of the same name—some seven and a half years after its theatrical release.

The top 12 pictures amassed $134.4 million, down 6.5% from $143.7 million on the same frame last year when The Matrix Revolutions and Elf bowed.

Audiences continued to sample Sideways in limited release. The $12 million wine country road trip comedy from director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt) squeezed $1.0 million out of 66 theaters (up 50 from last week), averaging a potent $15,872 per venue in its third weekend. With $1.9 million in the till, distributor Fox Searchlight plans to expand it to 150 theaters next weekend, then to about 400 on Nov. 19 before ripening to national release in time for Thanksgiving.

Warner Bros. snuck The Polar Express at 533 theaters on Saturday, but exit data was not available. New Line ran 1,000 sneaks for the Pierce Brosnan-Salma Hayek caper After the Sunset on Saturday as well and boasted 85% capacity on average with moviegoers mostly over 30 years old but evenly split between genders.

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