This weekend’s headlining new release comes in the form of Brave, Pixar’s first original film in three years. Despite solid tracking data across Flixster (boasting almost 18,000 more votes than Madagascar 3 had two weeks ago) and MTC/RS, I can’t help but get the feeling that the film hasn’t quite attained the “must see opening weekend” factor that films such as WALL-E and Up did in 2008 and 2009 (which opened to $63.1 million and $68.1 million, respectively — the latter with 3D in hand).
I’m also coupling that feeling with the fact that Madagascar 3 beat Pixar to the punch this summer as the first computer animated movie of the season, potentially satiating some of that high demand for families to find something to take the kids too. That hasn’t usually affected Pixar in the past, but given the seemingly more mature nature of Brave and the poor word of mouth among adults for last year’s Cars 2 there could be some slight spillover effect. We no longer live in a time where every CG animation is an event movie.
In fact, I’m reminded of the 2010 DreamWorks hit How to Train Your Dragon and Pixar’s own 2007 summer entry Ratatouille. The latter film struggled to appeal to kiddies (compared to most other Pixar films) up front and ultimately resulted in one of the lowest opening weekends ($47 million) of the studio’s storied history. Dragon, meanwhile, shares a similar Celtic theme to Brave and similarly disappointed some in the industry with its $43.7 million opening at the time. To both films’ credits, reviews and word of mouth excelled and made the “low” openings a distant memory after each found enough staying power to cross the $200 million threshold. (So far, Brave‘s reviews are good but not near as strong as either of those flicks.)
Going somewhat against the grain, that’s what my gut is telling me will be the case with Brave: a soft-but-generally solid opening weekend followed by typical Pixar summer legs (Cars 2 notwithstanding) that push it north of the $200 million mark. I wouldn’t be shocked if it misses $50 million altogether this weekend, but I’m betting on the 3D bump to get it over the hump.
As for the other two new releases: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter might be able to pull in some of the niche fanboy crowd that turned Kick-Ass into a modest hit two years ago, but the R-rating will keep away the younger audience that the film is really appealing to. Its hard to imagine many adults finding interest in the concept and 3D serves to only turn them away even more. This is a summer where only the sure-things are succeeding, and on paper, this one already sounded like another Jonah Hex in the making. Once again, I’m not betting on tracking’s suggestion of a $20+ million opening. Instead, I’m looking at the $15 million opening of last year’s Priest as a more accurate barometer. I wouldn’t rule out Fright Night (2011)‘s disastrous $7.7 million debut either.
Last up is the latest small platform Steve Carell dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Last summer’s Crazy, Stupid, Love. opened to $19.1 million and tallied about 16,000 votes on Flixster before release while 2007′s Dan In Real Life opened to $11.8 million. The marketing campaign hasn’t been very predominant but Carell packs enough drawing with young and older adults to entice those who are bored with their other choices at cinemas right now. Playing at only 1,618 venues this weekend will cap its potential though, so reaching double-digit millions is probably a best case scenario. In typical Carell fashion, though, the film has a decent shot at long play-ability in the weeks ahead.
1. Brave - $52.5 million (NEW)
2. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted - $18.9 million (-44.5%)
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - $11.6 million (NEW)
4. Prometheus - $9.9 million (-52.2%)
5. Rock of Ages - $9.3 million (-35.6%)
6. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - $9.2 million (NEW)
7. Snow White and the Huntsman - $6.7 million (-49.5%)
8. Marvel’s The Avengers - $5.9 million (-33.7%)
9. Men In Black 3 - $5.8 million (-42.3%)
10. That’s My Boy - $5.3 million (-60.6%)