Monday Morning Quarterback Part One

By BOP Staff

June 13, 2006

Onward to Miami!

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We had our discussion before actuals came out. See if you can tell!

Kim Hollis: Cars opened to $62.8 million, making it only the second largest animated opening of the year. Should Pixar be disappointed that they didn't beat Ice Age: The Meltdown?

David Mumpower: I suspect that they are, but we should be fair about the fact that Ice Age 2's opening was exemplary. There is no shame in falling short of a $68 million performer, after all.

Tim Briody: And I'd wager it'll out-earn it in the long run. Cars won't see a 50% decline in the second weekend like Ice Age did.

David Mumpower: That's a great point. Ice Age: The Meltdown is currently sitting at $190 million. Cars is going to blow past that number. It's only when we obsess upon the first three days that the situation is troublesome.

Kim Hollis: And even made more than $60 million. That's exemplary on its own, in my opinion.

Tim Briody: It is a sad day when we even consider using the words disappointing when talking about $60 million.

Kim Hollis: Especially given the fact that up until a month ago, a $25 million weekend was looking like the new norm.

Everyone's a critic...except Peter Travers.

Kim Hollis: This discussion leads to our next question. Is it fair to be critical of a $60 million opener?

Tim Briody: Only in the case of a movie that's expected to blow the doors off the joint, like an X-Men or Spider-Man. I know Cars is Pixar and essentially an exception, but for a non-sequel on a non-holiday, you can't say anything bad about $60 million.

David Mumpower: Absolutely. There is a degree of relativism to any box office discussion. A $60 million opening is fantastic for say, a Cole Hauser film. For a George Lucas or Peter Jackson production, it would depend upon circumstance. Pixar has a well established track record. We know that with Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, they had broached new territory with their performances. It's totally fair to judge Cars by those (lofty) standards.

Tim Briody: So are you calling Cars a disappointment? Because I'm not. And while we're splitting hairs, let me just add that if it didn't crack $60 million for some reason, I'd be blasting its performance.

David Mumpower: By Pixar standards, its initial performance is not what I had anticipated. It's not a Mission: Impossible III sort of disappointment, but it's a few million short of what I would consider great. This only matches Monsters, Inc., a 2001 release. It's hard to paint that as a huge positive, at least to my mind.

Kim Hollis: I think it's fair to judge Pixar against itself to some degree, but we also have to keep in mind that the marketplace has changed since the release of both Nemo and the Incredibles. There wasn't the constant stream of CGI product at that time that there is now from other studios. Yes, Pixar is still special, but I do think that people don't necessarily see a CGI product as something quite so unique as it was even two years ago.

Tim Briody: I don't think it was so much that CGI movies aren't as special anymore. While I'm still very interested in seeing it, it does seem like someone went "okay, so what type of characters can we make that'll let us do the most merchandising this time?"

BOP used to be with "it", but then they changed what "it" was. Now what we're with isn't "it", and what's "it" seems weird and scary to us. And it'll happen to you!

David Mumpower: Kim, you are absolutely right to say that the market has changed dramatically just in the past few years. Even so, the other aspect is that we see openings of a much more explosive level when the projects are perceived as "big". Cars seems to fall short of that plateau for consumers, at least thus far.

Tim Briody: Cars just didn't have that "it," like, say, a Finding Nemo did.

David Mumpower: I think you make a fantastic point, Tim. It's a sweet, nostalgic take on children's love of cars as well as adults' love of the past. As sincere as the movie itself is, the production greenlight seems just as cynical. You can easily envision the marketing pitch of, "And just think how many toy cars we can sell!" I hope Pixar hasn't become that jaded, but their financial windfall couple with the Disney marriage does make me wonder.

Tim Briody: Also, I am saddened by the number of children that will have a toy version of the car voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.

David Mumpower: He's going to go down as most people's favorite character, too. He's the Dory of 2006...though I personally love the tire changing thingamajig.

Kim Hollis: The movie itself is tender and you can tell that the people who put the movie together loved the project as well as their characters and story. Somewhere between the creation process and the marketing process, the tenderness and sweetness is lost and it does give the impression of - hey, look! Shiny cars! Buy some! With that said, you would never think it possible to make cars seem cuddly and cute. Cars totally does.

David Mumpower: And that's my gravest concern about the merger. There has always been that wall between Pixar's caretaking and Disney's marketing sensibilities. I worry about that wall eroding over time. Cars is handled with the lightest touch possible. The respect Lasseter shows for an America gone by is tender enough to bring a tear to the eye. That doesn't stop me from thinking twice every time I see a store display of the White Trash Car with the Heart of Gold.


Exhibitors should boost sales by offering Cars merchandise in the lobby.

Kim Hollis: Assuming we're not reading to much into the moderate opening by Pixar standards, what do you think is the cause of Cars opening lower than The Incredibles or Finding Nemo?

David Mumpower: I'm fairly certain I know the answer on this one. A lot of people will be quick to point out the mediocre teaser initially released. I don't buy that since Pixar's teasers are historically informational rather than "Wow factor" in nature. The key here is that a lot of folks are simply willing to wait for the DVD. It's as inevitable as summer turning to fall that this disc will sell 15 million copies. A lot of those folks simply aren't inclined to see it in the theater now...especially since it will be available on DVD the instant summer does turn to fall.

Tim Briody: Give that man a cigar.

Kim Hollis: Also, I believe that it skewed a little young compared to a typical Pixar film. It was completely attractive to boys who love toy cars and so forth, but there wasn't much to say to adults and teens that this was a film they would enjoy as well.

David Mumpower: You basically say it with the rest of your reply, Kim, but you hit on the other key aspect there as well. This is more of a boys' film than a kids' film.



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