Wall-E + Wanted = Wow
By John Hamann
June 29, 2008
When economic times are tough, people go to the movies - and this weekend, they hit the box office in droves. People had good reason to go, as two shining examples of summer movie gold were on display in the form of Pixar's WALL-E and its demographic opposite, the graphic-novel based Wanted from Universal, lords of the summer box office. Tracking was once again turned on its head, holdovers were forgotten, and The Happening got smacked around again, showing box office plunges not seen since the 1990s. Most importantly, a big record fell this weekend.
After about two hours of research, I can confirm that this is a record breaking weekend, as we have two openers above $50 million for the first time ever. Many times we have seen more than two $50 million films in the top two, but one of the films has always been a holdover, a blockbuster from a previous weekend. For example, the weekend that The Day After Tomorrow was released, it opened to $68.7 million, but had to settle for second behind the sophomore weekend of Shrek 2, which came in at $72 million. The closest we've ever come to having two $50 million openers was last Christmas, when I Am Legend opened to $77.2 million and Alvin and the Chipmunks debuted to a surprising $44.3 million.
Other close calls came in May 2005, when The Longest Yard ($47.6 million) opened ahead of Madagascar ($47.2 million). That weekend, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, enjoyed an even better second frame at $55 million to lead both. Other interesting one-twos are Casino Royale and Happy Feet ($41.5 and $40.8 million respectively), and American Gangster and Bee Movie ($43.5 and $38.0 million). Usually big films shy away from each other, with studios picking weekends they can control. This frame brings something unique, two films after diametrically opposite demographics: Wanted, the R-rated super violent and profane action flick, and WALL-E, the sweet, family-friendly cartoon from Pixar.
The winner of the unexpected behemoth battle, and our number one film of the weekend is Pixar's latest (and maybe greatest) film, WALL-E, the story of a lonely and often sad waste disposal robot. That's probably not a good way to get your story greenlighted, but this is Pixar, the studio that brought you journeying goldfish ($339 million domestic), and a rat that can cook ($204 million domestic). WALL-E earned a better-than-expected $62.5 million from 3,992 venues. This is a huge rebound from last year's Pixar outing, Ratatouille, which opened to $47 million over the same June weekend. While the opening for Ratatouille wasn't the usual for Pixar (between $60 million and $70 million is the norm) chef rat finished with over $200 million, Pixar's sixth consecutive effort to reach that plateau. No other studio in Hollywood can make this same claim, and now WALL-E is going to make that string of consecutive hits seven.
How can the Pixar brand keep pumping out quality releases? Planning. These movies are not made in three months, it's more like three years. Pixar has developed all of their films very carefully, taking painstaking time with story before moving on to the more creative animation process. The result, of course, is gold, and with all this money swirling around for Pixar, it would be nice if Hollywood would copy their model, and go with quality rather than mass. The other result for Pixar is extremely positive reviews, which this week created a huge buzz for WALL-E. At RottenTomatoes, only five reviews out of a possible 134 were negative, leaving the Andrew Stanton film with a fresh rating of 97%, percentages that are reserved only for Pixar and Oscar nominated films.