News

Pixar Manufactures Seventh Smash with 'Cars'

by Brandon Gray
A scene from Cars
June 12, 2006

Pixar Animation Studios and distributor Buena Vista revved up their seventh blockbuster in a row as moviegoers got their kicks on Route 66 and lost interest in Remake 666 over the weekend.

Cars hauled in $60.1 million from close to 7,000 screens at 3,985 theaters, the third highest-grossing opening for a June release and sixth best among animated features. While in top gear, the debut marked a pit stop for Pixar—in terms of number of tickets sold, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. each had from 20 percent to 26 percent greater attendance out of the gate, and, until now, Pixar saw higher initial grosses with each new release.

"As far as expectations go, we've all grown accustomed to hitting home runs, and in anyone's ballpark $60 million is a home run," said Chuck Viane, Buena Vista's president of distribution. "On Monday, 61 percent of kids are out of school, then a week from Monday, 81 percent. That's the great thing about the summer—it's not just about the weekend. The week takes on the aura of being a seven-day playdate."

According to Buena Vista's research, Cars was predictably fueled by families, who comprised 74 percent of moviegoers, though nearly 40 percent were over 25 years old and there was an even split between the genders. The audience reaction, according to pollster CinemaScore, was an "A."

"Pixar's consistency is remarkable, and always story is king," noted Mr. Viane. "It isn't about the animation; you have to tell a great story. [With Cars,] you see in these cars a member of your family, whether it's the Porsche, the tow truck or the race car. It's a very comfortable world to be in, and everyone walks away with a favorite."

With a franchise of Pixar's caliber, the pressure is constantly present to match or exceed prior successes, but not all movies are the same. Cars veered from Pixar's past efforts by being their first feature without a human context, set entirely in an alternate reality and replacing people with anthropomorphized automobiles. Similar conceits limited Robots and Chicken Little.

A scene from Cars
Previous Pixar features didn't have to contend with a glut of other computer-generated movies potentially lessening their event status. Cars is the genre's sixth entry this year alone with Over the Hedge right in its rear-view mirror. Aside from Pixar's brand equity, talking cars are a change of pace from the usual talking animals, and, with its Doc Hollywood-like storyline, Cars was less manic-looking and more adult-minded than other C.G. fare, giving it broader family appeal.

After its record-high $12.6 million Tuesday gross on the gimmicky "6-6-06," The Omen quickly faded, conjuring $16 million over the weekend at 2,723 sites in fourth place. 20th Century Fox's remake of the 1976 hit has grossed a potent $36.3 million in six days. "I don't think The Omen would have $36 million in six days if it opened on Friday," said Fox's president of distribution, Bruce Snyder.

Fox's exit polling indicated that 63 percent of The Omen's audience was under 25, which means most moviegoers weren't born yet when the third entry in the original Omen franchise was released. The first Omen raked in $60.9 million in its day, which translates to about $185 million today, adjusted for ticket price inflation. The new Omen is not likely to reach much more than a third of that sum.

Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan in A Prairie Home Companion
A Prairie Home Companion, director Robert Altman's latest ensemble effort and based on Garrison Keillor's radio program of the same name, fielded an okay $4.6 million at 760 venues. Despite big name casts, these kinds of pictures rarely make hay, but distributor Picturehouse was pleased with the returns. "It played well across the board, from the big cities to the small towns," said Picturehouse president Bob Berney. "The radio audience and the audience for a nice movie, an older audience, really came out."

Among holdovers, nearly half the audience split from The Break-Up, which is not unusual for a summer comedy. Down 48 percent, it made $20.3 million for an excellent $73.9 million in 10 days. X-Men: The Last Stand collapsed 53 percent to $16.1 million, but the mutant mash powered past the $200 million in a mere 17 days and is now the top-grossing picture of the year thus far.

Overall, weekend business accelerated seven percent ahead of the same frame last year, when Mr. & Mrs. Smith was on top.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - Cars
• 6/7/06 - 'Omen' Opens to Tuesday Record
• 6/13/05 - 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' Honeymoons at the Top
• 3/14/05 - 'Robots' Rivets
• 11/8/04 - $70M Fantastic for 'Incredibles'

RELATED CHARTS
All Time - Animation Openings
Car Racing Movies
Computer Animation
'The Omen' Franchise

Horror Remakes
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, June 11 and was revised on Monday, June 12 with actual grosses.



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