Weekend Wrap-Up

Monsters and Zombies: Summer Box Office Style

By John Hamann

June 23, 2013

Is Sully playing soccer with Mike Wazowski as the ball?

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Monsters University got the key cast members back for the prequel, which of course includes Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, as they all hit new box office heights this weekend. Oddly, Pixar and Disney did not release a budget for Monsters University, leaving us to speculate that it cost somewhere between the original’s $115 million budget and Brave’s $185 million budget, as I doubt this sequel carried the $200 million price tag that Cars 2 did (I have to hope they learn from their mistakes). On the review side, Monsters University remains fresh at 77%, but continues a softer trend in the review department for the studio. Brave was 78% fresh, but is much better than Cars 2 38%. Prior to Cars 2, Pixar was on a roll with critics with Toy Story 3 (99% fresh, 100% from top critics), Up (98% fresh), WALL-E (96% fresh), and Ratatouille (96% fresh). Kids and families care little about reviews, though, and gave Monsters University an A Cinemascore, similar to that of Brave, while Cars 2, with its 38% fresh rating, earned an A-. This is another solid hit for the smash makers at Pixar, and will give the studio its sixth $250 million plus earner. Overseas, Monsters University should be just as hot, and at the very least will match the stateside take, but will more likely earn $400 million on foreign shores.

World War Z is number two this weekend, and regardless of rank, this is a super-sized hit for Paramount, Brad Pitt, and Pitt’s Plan-B Productions, among others. After a $25 million opening Friday (which includes $3.6 million from Thursday screenings), the weekend proper turned that strong Friday into a weekend take of $66 million. That makes World War Z the second biggest non-number one film ever, behind only The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7 million). One can see how rare this is, as the fourth biggest non number one debut was Prometheus, which opened to $51.1 million.


Paramount and Plan B needed a big weekend for this one, as it was no secret that the Zombie epic was not a cheap film to make. After reshoots pushed the budget up, and tax incentives lowered it, the published number now is a $190 million negative cost. Had World War Z done an After Earth, Paramount would have been in real trouble. Now, should WWZ follow the Day After Tomorrow trajectory, it would finish with $180 million on the domestic side, and likely another half billion from overseas customers, as this is Brad Pitt. Tree of Life earned only $13.3 million domestically, but overseas earned $41 million. Inglourious Basterds earned $200 million overseas versus $120 million domestic, with Benjamin Button matching those amounts; Troy earned $364 million overseas and Mr. and Mrs. Smith $290 million. Simply put, World War Z should end up as a worldwide hit, pulling in at least $500 million for all involved.

Who should Paramount thank for the success of this one? Zombies, Brad Pitt and basketball. Zombies seem to be the thing these days, what with the awesome Walking Dead, Zombie Walks, and the much asked for sequel to Zombieland (please?). Brad Pitt did the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 thing for World War Z, personally stepping up and marketing the film directly to fans. We have talked a lot in the column about a world without star-driven films, but both Downey and Pitt have showed that the changing world has the stars as showmen now, instead of making a film and sitting back.
The marketers of World War Z also did a great job marketing the film, as the trailers and TV ads were action packed and visible throughout the NBA playoffs. Whether you like the style of these zombies or not, the trailer for World War Z does pack a punch, and like Man of Steel last weekend, the studio made a lot of money off of a very well cut trailer.

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