Finding Dory Sparks Summer Box Office
By John Hamann
June 19, 2016
And… we're back in business at the box office after a five-weekend power outage. Summer is officially back on.
After five weeks of pain and a losing streak through what should be the biggest month and a half of the year - the situation is now rectified thanks to a sequel that scads of people are actually interested in seeing, and an (unoriginal) original with two new-school A-Listers. Thankfully, Finding Dory set animation records this weekend for Pixar and Disney, and Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart's Central Intelligence still beat expectations (despite the massiveness of Dory).
Finding Dory is our number one film by a landslide - a summer smash - as the Pixar sequel exceeds expectations by $25 million, and opens with some of the biggest hitters of all time. Expectations heading into the weekend had Finding Dory, sequel to the 2003 Pixar original, opening at or around $110 million, in the same ballpark as Toy Story 3's $110.3 million debut, since it had the same beloved Pixar sequel thing going for it. That number was blown up as early as Thursday night, as Finding Dory had a preview gross of $9.1 million, not only a record for Pixar and Disney, but also a record for animation, as the former title holder was Minions with a Thursday preview take of $6.2 million - tiny in comparison. This number was an assault on my expectations, as I was looking for a $6-7 million Thursday and got $9.1 million. Dory was huge before its first Friday even dawned, and unless it was some weird blip, records were coming down.
The Friday with Preview amount for Finding Dory was reported at a simply stunning $54.95 million, easily the best opening day take for an animated film ever, handily beating Minions' $46 million debut, but also the 24th best on the all-time opening day list - sandwiched between a Hunger Games sequel and a Marvel film. Dory beat Toy Story 3's opening day ($41.1 million) by almost $14 million, so it was destined to be Pixar's biggest opener ever, and Disney's biggest non-Marvel, non-Star Wars opener ever. Dory's opening day was bigger than every opener since Captain America: Civil War, save for X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened to $65.8 million. The opening day also blew the tracking apart, as it earned half of what industry experts was expecting - $110-$115 million - before selling same day tickets on Saturday. Disney scheduled Finding Dory perfectly, as Friday was the first day out of school for a lot of kids, and they took advantage.
With all of those kids out of school, and the all-demographic appeal this one has, Finding Dory won't get the normal Saturday lift we see from animated movies. The Saturday number was reported at $45.8 million, and Sunday was estimated at $35.5 million, giving Pixar's Finding Dory a record-breaking-for-animation weekend take of $136.2 million, immediately breathing life into a troubled box office. It spanks former animated record holder Shrek the Third and its $121 million opening frame, as well as last year's Minions, which opened to $115.7 million. Dory earned that massive amount from 4,305 theaters, Pixar's widest release ever, as Brave is now second, having opened at 4,164 venues. Dory was good news for thirsty theater owners as the venue average came in at $31.634, and could possibly prop up fellow Disney flick The BFG, which has been reported to have low tracking numbers.