Weekend Wrap-Up

Cars 2 races to the top spot

By Kim Hollis

June 26, 2011

Their eyes follow you everywhere.

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This was bound to be an exciting weekend at the box office, with Pixar and Disney releasing their Cars sequel and Cameron Diaz looking as though she was back in hilarious comic form in Bad Teacher. With the Cars franchise already worth billions of dollars in box office receipts and merchandising, would it defy expectations that had it finishing only in the $55 million range?

Indeed, Cars 2 did exceed all tracking numbers as it had a debut weekend of $68 million. This is an increase over what the original Cars earned in its opening ($60.1 million), and shows that the audience for the franchise has expanded as ever more children have grown to love Lightning McQueen, Mater and their friends. Cars 2 also compares favorably to the majority of other Pixar debuts. If we disregard the Toy Story 3 juggernaut (it had a gaudy opening weekend of $110.3 million), the opening weekend for Cars is right in line with Pixar flicks such as Up ($68.1 million), WALL-E ($63.1 million), The Incredibles ($70.5 million), Finding Nemo ($70.3 million), and Monsters, Inc. ($62.6 million). Yes, we should account some for inflation and increased ticket prices due to 3-D, but what is clear is that Pixar has shown remarkable consistency over the years, establishing themselves as a trusted brand for families. That trust has earned them a certain level of box office returns as a result.


With all that said, the Cars franchise is a bit of a different beast than the other movies in Pixar’s catalog. It’s generally agreed that Cars is the worst of their feature films, which is proven out by its Rotten Tomatoes rankings. It comes in at 74%, far worse than the other Pixar release that is considered “lesser” than the others – A Bug’s Life (which is 91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes). With Cars 2, the studio seems to have accepted that these characters are truly intended for children, and tailored the story to that effect. The result is that so far, critics are railing against the sequel. Out of 141 reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes, only 47 are positive, meaning that the film currently has a Rotten rating of 33%, by far the worst we’ve ever seen from the studio. Most of the reviewers seem perturbed by the fact that Cars 2 is not up to Pixar’s usual standards rather than calling it a “bad” movie in and of itself. It’s easy to understand why that disappointment might settle in given the output of the studio, but when you hear kids and their parents talking about the movie, it sounds like they (mostly) got exactly what they were looking for. I can certainly say that my theater was full of laughing, happy kids.

Besides which, we all know that the real money for Cars 2 is going to come from the merchandising associated with it. The original film resulted in billions of dollars worth of toy sales, and Cars 2 is going to be no different. Yes, the movie is going to make decent coin at the box office, but that’s not even the point as far as Disney and Pixar are concerned. This movie is all about making enough cash that they can continue to make movies about rats who love to cook, or old men with balloons, or robots who clean up the trash.

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