Pixar Dominates Box Office With Up
By John Hamann
May 31, 2009
In the end, is Up a disappointment for Pixar and Disney due to the fact that Up didn't dominate the Pixar record book even with the 3-D price increase? No way, no how. For digital animation, Up represents the top tier of earnings, the highest since The Simpsons Movie earned $74 million in July of 2007. It finished ahead of some of the DreamWorks releases like Kung Fu Panda ($60.2 million opening) and Madagascar 2 ($63.1 million opening), but really, it's the legs and foreign box office where Pixar cleans up. Count on an opening-to-domestic finish multiplier around 4.0, and then foreign totals that will either meet or beat its domestic grosses. Then, after all the box office cash is counted, count on an Oscar nomination, and more money on a DVD released just in time for Christmas. As mentioned, Up was 98% fresh at RottenTomatoes, with only three negative reviews out of a possible 144. Pixar has again set the bar on film quality for the rest of the year, and hopefully other films will match it (not like last year after WALL-E's debut).
With Up dominating the family scene, we are left with the question as to how much pie would be left for Night at the Musueum: Battle of the Smithsonian. The answer is not good news for the folks at Fox, and once again I'm scratching my head at scheduling decisions. First off, the business: Night at the Museum 2 earned $25.5 million in its second weekend, a number that is not nearly good enough. Let's remember that the Ben Stiller family-friendly adventure-comedy debuted last weekend to a listless $54.2 million – despite being a long weekend – and the gross this weekend gives Night at the Museum 2 a woeful second weekend drop of 53%. The first Museum picture was successful for one reason, its second weekend. As 2006 was turning into 2007, the original flick earned $30.4 million over its opening frame, but then shocked everyone with an increase in its second frame to $36.8 million, a 20% increase from the weekend before. Who at Fox thought moving this franchise to summer was a good idea, and who thought snuggling it up to a Pixar film was the right angle? Did they think Up looked like a weak sister compared to the rest of the Pixar lineup? Sure, Museum 2 swung low over Memorial Day weekend by $25 million, but even so, the scheduling here is a complete disaster. The good news for Fox is that Museum 2 is over the $100 million mark after ten days with a total so far of $105.3 million. The bad news is that it's going to swing under the original's domestic gross by about $75 million, leaving that cash on the table.
Third spot goes to Drag Me To Hell, the new horror flick from Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. With no real stars (sorry Justin Long, you need to keep working) Drag Me To Hell managed an opening weekend gross of $16.6 million, coming in lower than expected. Drag Me to Hell opened at 2,508 venues – lower than the average summer release – and managed a venue average of $6,630. The big difference with Drag Me To Hell compared to its other horror compatriots was those wonderful reviews – 94% fresh at RottenTomatoes – so why couldn't it convert those fantastic notices into a bigger box office weekend? The Strangers with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman opened higher over the same frame last year with $21 million, but did have a better marketing campaign in my opinion, as well as above the title stars. I believe Drag will have much better legs than The Strangers did, due to those reviews, and the direction by Raimi. Raimi has been known for launching cult classics of horror (Evil Dead, Darkman) and I don't see any difference here. Universal may not have a huge opening weekend, but they may have a birth of a franchise, which is way better.