Weekend Wrap-Up

Pixar Dominates Box Office With Up

By John Hamann

May 31, 2009

I can see the hairs in your nose! Moreso!

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After a disappointing Memorial Day Weekend at the box office, and an unexciting May in general, moviegoers get a rare summer treat this weekend – two well-reviewed, audience-friendly flicks to choose from. Opening this weekend were Pixar's Up (98% fresh) and Universal's Drag Me to Hell (94% fresh), which should be enough to wash the bad taste left after the release of Terminator Salvation (33% fresh) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (44% fresh).

Our number one film of the weekend is Pixar's Up, the studio's tenth release, and its tenth consecutive winner on all fronts. Distributed by Disney, and available on 3-D screens, Up had all the benefits that a sequel does heading into release, as Pixar has become almost a bullet-proof franchise, like no other. Pixar manages film quality like my wife manages money – extremely carefully – and the benefits are on display – only one sub-$60 million opener in the studio's last six releases, and four consecutive $16.4 million plus opening days. And now you can make that five.


Pixar opened Up to $21.4 million on Friday, which led to another fantastic weekend gross of $68.2 million. Disney opened Up at 3,766 venues this weekend, and had a stellar venue average of $18,109. Around 40% of those venues were of the RealD variety, which means that theaters will charge more for patrons seeing Up in 3-D compared to regular prices for 2-D. Up opened higher than last year's WALL-E ($63.1 million opening), and Cars ($60.1 million opening), and came close to both Finding Nemo ($70.3 million opening) and franchise champ The Incredibles ($70.5 million opening).

While Up was similar to its brethren in terms of opening weekend numbers, the internal part of the weekend played out somewhat differently. Up's internal multiplier (Friday box office divided by weekend box office) came in at 3.2 – a higher than expected figure that is due to the 3-D aspect of this release. BOP has noticed that family-targeted 3-D films tend to have higher weekend multipliers than 2-D films aimed at the same demographic. Monsters vs Aliens, a 3-D release which opened this spring to $59.3 million, carried an opening weekend multiplier of 3.54, versus a normal multiplier that would usually be in the 2.9-3.0 range. You may scoff at the half point difference, but really it's like Derek Jeter hitting versus David Ortiz. Had MvA carried the 2.9 multiplier, its opening frame would have been $48.5 million instead of the much higher $59.3 million – a difference of more than $10 million over three days. Why is this trend happening? With the onslaught of advanced ticket sales, patrons are booking seats for 3-D screenings during non-rush times, which means Saturday and Sunday daytime screenings are becoming more popular than with regular 2-D films, with a film like Up selling out those screenings during the day. The bigger question may be where Up would have finished in terms of weekend gross -without- the ticket price increase of a 3-D film. Would Up have finished above $60 million without 3-D? The honest answer is probably not.

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