Weekend Wrap-Up for 6/29/01-7/1/01
Ratatouille: Low for Pixar, Big for Box Office
By John Hamann
July 1, 2007

I see fat people.

The pre-July 4th weekend was busy at the box office, as new openers rang up over $80 million dollars in new business, and holdovers didn't completely collapse. The star of the show this weekend was Pixar and Disney's Ratatouille, the story about the French rat that learns to cook. The little blue rat couldn't keep pace with his Pixar brethren, but was still hot nonetheless, and is almost a lock to have excellent legs. Other debuts included Michael Moore's Sicko, which, when combined with Ratatouille, gave the top ten two extremely well-reviewed films this weekend.

The number one film this weekend is Ratatouille, the exciting new release from Pixar. Ratatouille earned an okay $47.2 million from 3,940 venues this weekend, leaving this animated effort with a venue average of $11,987. This is the lowest opening for a Pixar flick since 1998's A Bug's Life, counting back five films in Pixar's history. The typical debut for a Pixar flick is between $60 and $70 million, so this is well below the usual for a Pixar production. On the other hand, for Disney, this is an excellent opening frame. Disney hasn't had an opener this big since last year's Cars, discounting of course the two Pirates of the Caribbean films. While the opening weekend score may be on the lower end of the Pixar stream, the legs here will most likely be fantastic. Reviews for Ratatouille were out of this world, as it secured some of the best notices for any film so far this year. Of the 120 critics that chimed in, only six didn't like it, leaving the animated feature with a little seen fresh rating of 95%. Clearly, that is something to be excited about, and I have no doubt that this little rat will reach the $250 million mark these films usually rise to. Last year, Cars finished its run with about $244 million in domestic sales after opening to $60 million, and it only earned a fresh rating of 76%. Ratatouille will have to deal with a busy July as many films will try to infringe on the Pixar demographic. Transformers gets started on Tuesday (and is also getting good reviews), and will be followed by the next Harry Potter film and The Simpsons Movie on July 27th. Cars didn't face the same competition that Ratatouille will, but was lesser of a movie, and still earned $244 million. I hate to say it, but probably the best comparison for Ratatouille is Finding Nemo, as that film was 98% fresh, and had a father-son theme. What it didn't have was massive demographic competition in its first few weekends of release, which may keep Ratatouille from rising beyond $260 million, which The Incredibles finished with in 2004.

Second spot this weekend goes to another good performer in Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth film in the Die Hard franchise. With Bruce Willis back as John McClane, Live Free grossed $33.2 million from Friday-to-Sunday, and has earned an impressive $48.2 million since opening on Wednesday. 20th Century Fox put this one out to 3,175 theaters, and it found a decent average of $9,727. It's been 12 years since we've had a Die Hard flick in release, as Die Hard: With A Vengeance opened in May of 1995 to about $22 million, or a little over $30 million in 2007 dollars. The opening this weekend tells us the same audience that came out 12 years ago came out again this weekend, and the franchise hasn't missed a beat. Fox may have had a bigger opening this weekend had they waited until Friday to release this one, but with Transformers coming so quickly next week, this is most likely an excellent strategy.

The biggest difference between Die Hard 3 and Die Hard 4 is the reviews. Die Hard: With A Vengeance could only manage a 47% rating at RottenTomatoes, and if you are at all like me, felt it was the weak sister in what had been an truly exemplary franchise. According to the critics, Live Free or Die Hard brings the franchise most of the way back to its superlative status, as critics at RottenTomatoes honored this one with a 78% fresh rating. Users at the site are even happier with this product, as they have issued a 94% fresh rating. Lastly, for Bruce Willis, this is a much needed success. This his first live action, above-the-title, $30 million plus opening since 2000's Unbreakable, which opened to $30.3 million and also starred his Die Hard: With A Vengeance co-star Samuel L. Jackson.

Finishing well back in third after finishing on top last weekend is the $200 million comedy, Evan Almighty. The Bruce Almighty sequel had a rough second frame and certainly isn't getting what it needs to earn its production budget back domestically. Evan Almighty earned $15.1 million in its second weekend, and was off 52% from last weekend. For this one to earn $200 million, Evan would have needed a drop of about 20%. It does look like the Steve Carell flick may make it to $100 million (if it's very lucky), but when your film costs twice that amount, you have to do better. So far, the Universal release has earned $60.6 million.

1408 moves into fourth spot this weekend, as the John Cusack fright fest manages to keep its drop below 50%, which is saying something when dealing with a horror flick. 1408 earned $10.6 million in its second frame, and was off 49% from its opening frame. I saw this one on Tuesday night, and it is a movie that deserves excellent word-of-mouth. So far, 1408 from MGM and the Weinsteins has earned $40.4 million, not bad for a film that cost $25 million to make.

Finishing fifth is Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. News is not good (again) in the Fox camp of the Silver Surfer, as the comic book sequel earned $9 million and dropped 55%. The depreciation might be better than the 66% plummet it saw last weekend, but not by much. After opening to over $58 million, the Silver Surfer only has $114.8 million in the coffers so far, but can at least brag about getting to the $100 million mark. The cost for this was about $130 million, and should finish with about that much domestically.

Sixth spot goes to top ten stalwart Knocked Up, which is enjoying its fifth weekend in the top ten. The Judd Apatow comedy earned $7.4 million this weekend, and was off 32% compared to the previous frame. Knocked Up has now earned a fantastic $122.4 million, and has easily outgrossed The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which finished with about $107 million. Not only is Knocked Up one of the few unique summer films we've had so far, its also been a shrewd investment for Universal, as the price tag was only $30 million.

With Knocked Up finishing sixth, that means Ocean's Thirteen moves from fourth last weekend to seventh this weekend. George Clooney and friends earned another $6.1 million, shedding 47% of last weekend's audience. Ocean's Thirteen crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, but still looks to finish as the lowest earner in the Ocean's franchise. So far, the heist flick has earned $102.1 million.

Eighth spot goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, as it continues its slow slog toward $300 million. This weekend, the Pirates earned $5 million, and dropped a decent 30%. So far, the Johnny Depp flick has earned $295.8 million.

Finishing ninth is Michael Moore's Sicko from Lionsgate. Out to only 441 theatres, Sicko earned $4.6 million and found a quite healthy venue average of $10,204. Nobody expected this one to be like Fahrenheit 9/11 - that one opened to about $21 million from 868 venues in 2004. Still, a documentary about the health care system isn't exactly summer fare, so I think the Weinsteins and Lionsgate will be happy with this debut. Sicko also got excellent reviews, so I think it will hold well as counter-programming in the weeks to come. At RottenTomatoes, Sicko received 105 positive reviews out of a possible 116, leaving it with a very fresh rating of 91%. When was the last time we had two films debuting in the top ten with better than 90% averages?

Finally in tenth we have a bit of a surprise entry in Evening, the female-focused movie with a remarkable cast. From Focus Features, Evening was able to bring in $3.5 million from 977 locations. That's a not-so-great venue average of $3,596, but at least the studio can brag that the movie managed a top ten spot. It hasn't been particularly well-received, as RottenTomatoes has the film at only 28% fresh, so there's not much reason to hope for staying power or end-of-year accolades when it comes to awards season.

Overall this weekend, things were more than healthy. The top 12 for this weekend came in at $146.7 million, 2% ahead of last year's tally of about $143.7 million. Things could even improve next weekend, but we will have to wait and see what kind of effect the Tuesday opening of Transformers has on its first weekend tally.