“Cars 2” soars with $68 million over the weekend

HollywoodNews.com: To the surprise of no one, a Pixar picture topped the box office in its debut weekend, making it 12/12 since 1995. Cars 2 (or as I like to call it: “Finally, a Pixar movie that won’t make you violently sob in front of your children!”) weathered some surprisingly savage reviews to still debut with $68 million over the weekend. Depending on the final figures, the opening will be just above or just below the $68.1 million debut of Up (it’s at $111 million worldwide thus far). The film had a somewhat low (for animation) 2.72x weekend multiplier (it opened with $25 million on Friday), but that means little more than that it was a sequel with a certain ‘want-to-see’ factor. Heck, Toy Story 3 had a 2.6x weekend multiplier last year, causing me to (needlessly) wonder if the film was going to end up front-loaded overall. Regardless, there has never been a Pixar movie to end up with less than 3.5x its opening weekend (Wall-E: $63m opening/$223m total). So even if the critically trashed and more-or-less kid-targeted Cars 2 somehow sinks to a ‘new low’ of just 3.3x this weekend’s number, it still ends up with $224 million. If it merely does the 3.77x weekend-to-final number of Toy Story 3 ($110m/$415m), Cars 2 ends up with $256 million.

The big question mark, aside from the obvious ‘how will the movie play?’, (the film earned an A- from Cinemascore) remains its 3D screens. The film played 38% 3D, which makes sense considering the demographic and Disney seemed to see that coming anyway. Disney seems to have played it smart by booking plenty of 2D screens (since families with very young children are that much less willing to shell out the extra money for glasses that their kids won’t wear). Alas, the film, no matter how successful, will start bleeding screens as soon as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II needs 3D screens on July 15th. Cars 2 took most of its 3D screens from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (which has now made more money overseas that any other movie save Titanic and Avatar) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (which crossed $150 million this weekend, as it races towards $500 million overseas). So Transformers: Dark of the Moon (seeing it Monday) will take its IMAX screens from Cars 2 and its 3D screens from those two plus dying Green Lantern 3D auditoriums (more on that below), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II will start the 3D screen-theft process in just three weeks. Point being, even in its apparent 3D caution, Pixar/Disney may have sacrificed long term play-ability for short-term cash flow. Thank goodness no other company has done that over the last twenty years…

Opening in second place was the Cameron Diaz vehicle, Bad Teacher. The film (REVIEW) opened with $31 million, making it the fourth-biggest live-action debut for Cameron Diaz (behind The Green Hornet and the two Charlie’s Angels films) and far-and-away the biggest opening for a standalone Diaz vehicle (behind, uh… The Sweetest Thing with $9 million back in 2002 – she generally does ensemble films). While the picture pulled a C+ from Cinemascore, that’s not surprising since the film is indeed a black comedy, and far less vulgar and sexually-tinged than the marketing would have you believe. Nonetheless, the Sony picture cost just $20 million, so this is already a massive success. So if you’re keeping track, we’re 2/2 in the ‘yes female-driven comedies can make oodles of cash’ experiment of 2011. Alas, why do I get the feeling that as soon as one-such film flops, we’ll be back to business as usual?

Anyway, speaking of unqualified flops, Green Lantern (REVIEW) dropped a massive 63%, for an $18 million second weekend and an $89 million ten-day total. Look, I like the movie more than most, I’m a big Martin Campbell fan, and Ryan Reynolds never should have been expected to open a picture on his own, but this is an unmitigated disaster for Warner Bros. and DC Comics. The film is indeed following the Watchmen route, which opened with $56 million but pleased few-to-none and sank like a stone, barely cracking $100 million. So it may be for Hal Jordan, as the film will be lucky to hit $130 million at this point, with overseas numbers not saving the day this time around. Considering the $200 million budget and copious advertising expenses, the film’s failure (financial and arguably artistically) is a big problem for the tentpole future of Warner Bros. Oh, and considering that costs are now such an issue, maybe they shouldn’t have spent all that extra money to 3D-ize the special effects. The film looks great in 3D, but at what cost? I mean that, how much extra did the 3D work add to the budget?

Last weekend’s other major opener, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, dropped 43% in weekend two, for a $39 million ten-day total. It’s not exactly an out-of-this-world figure for a Jim Carrey comedy, but the film cost just $55 million, so it should be profitable in the end (especially with Fox’s unbeatable overseas machine). Super 8 is still holding on, having dropped 44% in weekend three and losing its IMAX screens to Cars 2. The Señor Spielbergo sci-fi picture now has $95 million in domestic grosses. X-Men: First Class now sits with $133 million, and it should hit $150 million if it can hold onto screens (it should cross $300 million worldwide as of today). The Hangover 2 ($243 million) just surpassed My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s $241 million domestic gross as it climbs further up the list among top-grossing comedies. Bridesmaids is at $146 million, meaning it will top $150 million this week and also become the top-grossing film that Judd Apatow has been involved with in any capacity (in this case, producing). And Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life continues to burn up the limited-release chart, grossing another $1.3 million on 214 screens. It already has a cum of $5.8 million, with a July 8th wide release on the horizon. Just remember… NO REFUNDS! And Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris now sits with $28 million, making it Allen’s biggest grosser in 25 years and his fourth-biggest overall. And, in defense of a certain beleaguered film blogger/columnist, I didn’t see that coming either.

Join us next weekend, as Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets ready to crush the competition, as it aims to become the first $100 million+ Fri-Sun opener of the year and hopes to take down the $222 million six-day record set by The Dark Knight. It could happen, especially if the film is actually any good (look for a review on Monday night or Tuesday morning). Counter-programming exists in the form of the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts romcom Larry Crowne. It looks a little slight, but the last film Hanks directed, That Thing You Do, was both terrific and deeper than the marketing let on (admit it, you still know the lyrics…). Until then, take care and keep reading and commenting.

To read more go to Scott Mendelson

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