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Monday Mouse Watch: Could "Cars" dwindling domestic box office clear the way for a "Monsters, Inc." sequel?

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Monday Mouse Watch: Could "Cars" dwindling domestic box office clear the way for a "Monsters, Inc." sequel?

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To hear Chuck Viane, the president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, tell the story … Well, Walt Disney Studios was absolutely thrilled with the way that "Cars" performed this past weekend. With this Pixar Animation film pulling in $33.7 at the box office during its second weekend in domestic release.

"I guess the family audience picked their favorite," Chuck explained, "And (they) decided that ('Cars') is what it was going to be."

Well, if that was really the case … Then it took the family audience an awful long time to decide which film was actually going to be its favorite this past weekend. For - on Friday - both "Nacho Libre" & "The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift" actually did better at the box office than "Cars" did. With Jack Black's new comedy earning $10.8 million that day, while Pixar's latest release (Which earned $9.2 million on that same date) was edged out by "Tokyo Drift" (Which sold $9.7 million of tickets on Friday).

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

If it weren't for $12.9 million that "Cars" pulled in on Saturday (Besting "Nacho Libre" 's $9.2 million Saturday take by $3.7 million) as well as the $11.6 million worth of tickets that this Pixar film sold on Sunday (Outdoing the $8.2 million that this Nickelodeon Movies production earned) … Pixar's $120 million ode to the open road would have found itself in the embarrassing position of being out-grossed by a $35 million live action comedy about Mexican wrestling.

Disney did its damnest to distract the press from "Cars" somewhat disappointing performance this past weekend. Doing things like talking up the fact that - when domestic ticket sales for this new John Lasseter film broke through the $100 million barrier this past Saturday - "Cars" officially became the 50th Disney film to break through the blockbuster barrier. Which is supposedly the highest number of blockbusters that any single studio has ever produced.

And then there was the fact that "Cars" did eventually come out on top in this past weekend's box office derby (Besting the $28.3 million that "Nacho Libre" pulled in by only $5.4 million). So that did give the Mouse some additional bragging rights.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

But the fact of the matter is … Many people in Burbank are really rather depressed at the way that "Cars" has been performing lately. As one studio insider told me just yesterday:

"We had originally expected that 'Cars' would only start to fade once Adam Sandler's new comedy ('Click') opened in theaters this coming Friday. That teens & young adults would favor that film over ours. But that was okay because we'd still pretty much have the family audience all to ourselves 'til 'Superman Returns' opened five days later.

But to have ticket sales fall off by 43% in our second weekend and to almost lose the top spot to a Jack Black wrestling comedy … Nobody here ever saw that coming.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

This was a film that was initially projected to do over $300 million domestic. Last week, that number got pushed back to $250 million. Today, I've got people asking me if I think 'Cars' is actually going to be able to make it to $200 million domestic. And - to be honest - right now, I don't know.

I'm hoping that 'Cars' can pull in another $50 - $60 million by next Wednesday. But after 'Superman Returns' opens, we're officially toast. With 'Dead Man's Chest' opening 9 days after that, there's no way that 'Cars' is going to do any significant repeat business this summer. This time around, the competition is just too strong."

If there is an upside to the "Cars" situation, it's that - while audiences may not be all that enthusiastic about John Lasseter's latest film - that hasn't actually stopped them from snatching up products that were obviously inspired by this new Pixar release.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

According to my sources, retailers around the country are reporting a run on "Cars" - related books and toys (You'll find photos of some of the more popular items used to help illustrate today's article).

In Walmart's case, many of the stores in that retail chain are now supposedly reporting that they've sold through their entire original shipment of "Cars" toys. And so - until the next shipment gets there … Well, these Walmarts are filling the shelves that these toys used to occupy with special "Cars" -themed boxes of Kleenex. And even the "Cars" Kleenex seems to be selling extremely well.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

Of course, when I hear news like that, I can't help but think that Michael Eisner was right.

"What do I mean by that?," you ask. Well, how many of you recall how -- back in 2000 -- Disney's former CEO was supposedly given a choice of future projects from Pixar. Michael had to chose what that studio's seventh & then-final film (From Disney's co-production deal with that animation studio) would be. And Eisner's choices were "Toy Story III" or "Cars."

Well, in the end, Uncle Michael eventually opted to go with "Cars" because A) By producing "Cars," Pixar would be adding a whole new set of characters to Disney's pre-existing stable of characters and B) Eisner thought that a line of toys that were based on "Cars" would turn out to be a big seller.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

Well, Eisner was at least right about the "Cars" line of toys being popular. It's just too bad that he couldn't have seen that audiences wouldn't turn out to be as enthusiastic about this new John Lasseter film as they were about Pixar's previous pictures.

"So what will Pixar now do in an effort to recover from this box office stumble?," you query. Well … To be honest, given that this film is still projected to possibly earn as much as $200 million during its initial domestic release … It's really hard for me to classify "Cars" as a failure. A disappointment? Perhaps. But "Cars" is certainly not a failure.

But - that said - when you take into consideration that this Pixar production reportedly cost $120 million to produce and that the Walt Disney Company has supposedly spent upwards of $50 - $60 million in order to properly promote this new motion picture … Well, this John Lasseter film has yet to even recover its initial marketing & production costs. Which is why the sales of "Cars" -related toys & this film's overseas ticket sales now become doubly important.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

In the short term, this increases the box office pressure on "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Now this Gore Verbinski film just has to be a smash hit in order to make up for "Cars" somewhat lackluster performance.

In the long run … Well, this may mean that the folks up at Pixar - in order to make it up to Disney Company management (Who - after all - just laid out $7.4 billion for Pixar Animation Studios. Based - in large part - on Pixar's ability to consistently crank out hit after hit after hit …) - might then be compelled to put a sure-fire sequel on that studio's development fast track.

"A sure-fire sequel?!," you sputter. "Which film is Pixar supposedly considered producing a sure-fire sequel of?" Well, as you know, development of "Toy Story III" (Both the Disney-produced / Circle Seven version as well as the official Pixar version) has been halted. At least for the time being.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

Whereas "Monsters, Inc. II" … Well, Pixar recruiters (Who have been touring college campuses this past year, attempting to get the next generation of computer geniuses to come work in Emeryville) have reportedly been talking up Pete Docter's next project. Which supposedly prominently features monsters.

So could Pete's next project actually be a follow-up to Docter's 2001 smash, "Monsters, Inc."? Only the folks in Emeryville know for sure. And - as of right now - they ain't talking.

But - that said - it certainly probably would make Bob Iger feel better (Given that he's the guy who will soon start feeling the heat for all that "Disney paid too much for Pixar" grumbling that you already hear coming from certain circles within the investment community) if he knew that he had a sequel to a previous Pixar smash already making its way through the production pipeline.

But - for now - all eyes are on "Cars." As the folks at Disney try to get a handle on how high (Or - more importantly - how low) the domestic take of this computer animated feature is going to be.

How about you folks? At what box office figure do you think this new John Lasseter film is finally going to run out of gas?

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  • Jim had this article pre-written over two years ago and just dropped the figures in yesterday!

    Jim hates Disney!

    Jim wrote "Over the Hedge" puff pieces!

    All of Jim's sources talk how he writes!

    Jim is out to get John Lassester!

    Jim is just plain mean!

    Great!  Now that we got that bullshit out of the way, how about we try having a real discussion for once!
  • I think hat instead of coming up with excuses about how Cars is a failure, they should be talking it up as it is technically a success.  Cars is a fantastic film and the only movie that will over take it in the next couple of weeks is Superman.  Then again, the mouse might have placed Cars in the spot to cause it to fail as, yes, this is a tough time to have a movie out with the "Next Big Thing" coming out week after week.  Then again, "Finding Nemo" was released in the summer and it was a smash hit. They are quite frankly crying over spilt milk I think.
  • You can be pretty sure none of the execs are sweating that much - it's all a game so they can hold the upper hand on the next round of negotiations. The execs are still in their plush offices, enjoying their expense accounts, and the movies will always be successes when their bonuses are figured. As Art Buchwald showed with Paramount, studio expenses and profits from an individual movie are very difficult to nail down. Unlike Pixar, Speilberg has made plenty of clinkers, but there isn't a studio in town that doesn't want to work with him - well, at least now that Eisner's gone.  
    Hmmm Eisner thinks toy cars will sell - genius !
    Bottom line - let's say Cars cost $300 million to produce and market - it's still gonna be profitable for the studio. I'd be much more concerned about purchasing Fox Family, the Muppets, Michael Ovitz, the California Angels, starting go.com, most  budgets of live action Disney/Touchstone/Hollywood/Miramax et al films, than I would about the purchase of Pixar.                    
  • "How about you folks? At what box office figure do you think this new John Lasseter film is finally going to run out of gas?"
    If we're going by history, you don't make bets on "what figure" a Pixar film will run out of gas...You bet on what MONTH a Pixar film will run out of gas.
    (This one's only got August on it--Not a September performer like Nemo, or a six-monther like Toy Story 2...)  :)

    And if that bit of sarcastically overstated truth flew over our heads, let's put it this way:
    I know one summer '06 animated film that DIDN'T come out of nowhere to clobber studio competition on its second week and grab the weekend away from an easy-demographic'ed cult-fanboy entry and an easier-demo'ed action-franchise title...Hedging our bets, are we?  ^_^

    (And I repeat what I asked, three "Cars" articles before:
    Are we *so* deeply and personally to Protecting the Holy Writs of 'Cars was a flop', that we're reduced to mythologizing out of our imaginations even when it ISN'T a flop?  Why does it mean so much to us that we put our lives and sacred honor at stake at Defending a Dream?
    Can't the naysayers just take their Dewey-Defeats-Truman lumps like good mature adults, and sit back and watch the ever-changing cockeyed caravan of an Unpredictable World?)
  • Oh, and:
    "If it weren't for $12.9 million that "Cars" pulled in on Saturday (Besting "Nacho Libre" 's $9.2 million Saturday take by $3.7 million) as well as the $11.6 million worth of tickets that this Pixar film sold on Sunday (Outdoing the $8.2 million that this Nickelodeon Movies production earned) … Pixar's $120 million ode to the open road would have found itself in the embarrassing position of being out-grossed by a $35 million live action comedy about Mexican wrestling."
    Yes, have to admit, from a long-range planning standpoint that would have been a major embarrassment for the studio if that had happened....GOSH, TOO BAD IT *DIDN'T*, HUH??  

    ("If"?...That's your article, Jim, things would have been bad "if" they had happened??
    Yeah, and if the South had won the Civil War, we'd all be eating chitlins, what's your freakin' POINT??)   0_o?
  • NubtheSquirrel said:
    "I think hat instead of coming up with excuses about how Cars is a failure, they should be talking it up as it is technically a success.  Cars is a fantastic film and the only movie that will over take it in the next couple of weeks is Superman. "
    And even then, it's only execs who share the fear of "Gosh, maybe we *won't* be #1 again the week Superman/Pirates opens!", and who believe Cars will drop off the face of the earth once the "bigger" summer movie opens (and no, we're not talking Adam Sandler, already)--
    While most moviegoers, with or without less options to choose from, more easily believe in the concept of "coexistence" in filling up the cineplex, store a few acorns away for July/August, and welcome having LOTS of films to go see.  As in, "more than one"...At least in summer, anyway.  [<--Obligatory "Treasure Planet" guilt-trip.]

    To wit:  A few years ago there was a lot of fear that an earlier Pixar film would be crushed by the long-awaited Harry Potter film--the FIRST one, no less--being released the second week after, and with a good few #1's to come.
    Did our maverick pre-Nemo studio crumble?  Or did they take their "rival" in stride and knowingly embrace the audience "Coexistence"/"Embarrassment of riches" concept into account when they faced that calamitous second weekend?
    Put it this way:  "Movie title...Two words...First word, uh--'Fur','Hair'...Sounds like 'hair'!..."
  • Bottom line, "Cars", was #1.  And now Disney has the highest # of blockbusters that any single studio has ever produced.  And, merchandise is selling like hotcakes.  "Cars" just opened in some international markets this weekend, and some countries won't get to see it until September.  So, technically, people shouldn't write it off just yet.  Since gas prices are high, many people may opt not to go to the theater and just buy it on DVD instead.  The DVDs will rent/sell well, more than likely.  I don't want to join the Let's Pick On Jim bandwagon, but I thought you'd be happy when Eisner left.  Now that he's gone, you just complain more than you used to.  :-(  Did you just purchase a lot of Dreamworks stock that you feel you can't love Disney anymore?  Did you see "Cars"?  It was so entertaining; I saw it twice already, and I don't like racing.  I say, good job, Disney and Pixar!
  • I hate to double-post, but the title of this article mentions "Cars"' dwindling box office"...don't a lot of movies' box office numbers go down after the first week?  "Cars" is no different.  It's almost like you want us to think that it has some magic power that's going to make it the most profitable movie ever, and that it's failing at its super powers.
  • Once again Jim compares apples to oranges to further his Fantasyland vision of reality ...

    Cars's OPENING weekend (which is what this was for Nacho Libre) was almost double what that piece of crap did. This was Cars' SECOND weekend in the theaters, not it's first. Ergo, the fact that it ultimately beat out the competition and took the weekend again is even MORE impressive, considering it was going up against the OPENING weekends of all the other major films whose asses it kicked.

    Also to dismiss Nacho Libre as "a live action movie about Mexican wrestling ... " is patentely ridiculous. Jack Black movies have a large cult following and they always do fairly well at the box office.

    This constant bashing for bashing's sake is actually getting fairly tiresome. I challenge anyone to go to any other site and find an article that hammers Cars' peformance the way Jim has been. He's obviously grinding his personal axe at the expense of the fact that we have to continue to read this crap.

    Well ... no I guess we don't, do we?
  • Despite what any "numbers" are saying, I think this movie is much better than The Incredibles.  I have not bought the DVD of that movie (the only Pixar film i don't have) and don't see myself ever buying it, but i will be buying the Cars DVD the day it comes out.

    Granted it is practically just To Wong Foo with cars rather than drag queens, but i loved this movie and i was expecting that i wouldn't.
  • Jim Jim Jim
    Your bias is questionable.
    Yes, we know the numbers. We don't care. The studios don't really care. So, what's the big deal?
    Numbers aside, what did you think of the movie? How about posting a review of the movie. Be a Disney fan again!
  • "How about posting a review of the movie?"

    Or how about posting a story someone besides you is interested in? And before someone says it, yes I know these stories are drawing lots of comments, but that's us bickering back and forth with each other. It's not based on any genuine, productive interest in Jim's stories.

    Here's an idea, Jim. Put your axe away and write a story that's actually interesting? Why don't you go find out more details on the Year of A Million Dreams?? I have about a hundred questions I'd like answered on this and, outside of that one lame story you posted day one that had no info I couldn't have gotten from my local newspaper, you haven't said another thing about it.

    THAT'S a story I'd actually find interesting, because thus far details on this have been scarce.
  • I admit that when the box office numbers came out for Friday, I was a little worried. "Cars" dropping to number 3, up against a lame Black vehicle and a rerun of extreme racing? But then "Cars" came roaring back on Saturday and Sunday and won the race. And that IMO is damned impressive. "Cars" isn't my favorite Pixar film by far - "Monsters Inc." is probably my fave. But I'm sure glad it's doing well and I think that it's particularly significant that its merchandising is selling so well. That IMO is a sure sign of a movie or TV show's popularity - that people like the characters so much they're willing to part with a buck to wear them on T-shirts or sleep with them (I'm talking plush toys here, relax). For example, despite the fact it's supposedly the second-most-popular show on Nickelodeon, "The Fairly Oddparents" doesn't make Nick a dime in merchandising - supposedly because, according to someone I know who works on ad placement for Nick, the fairy godfather character is so obnoxious parents don't feel good about buying products with him on it. OTOH, "Spongebob Squarepants" is a merchandising bonanza, on everything from shower curtains to car deoderizers. If the public really likes a character, it'll buy it, literally - and so if "Cars" is merchandising well, it's a sure sign the film is a substantial hit.
  • Here's the deal on Cars...

    Why did Cars not out perform Nemo?  1.  Late release.  Yes, this movie should have been released either May 12th (against M:I:III and Poseidon) or June 2nd (against the break up which would have moved to the 9th).  Why For? GRADUATIONS and GRADUATION PARTIES.  Most High School and College all start the first June weekend and continue well into the third weekend.  The second June weekend was the sweet spot.  

    2. DVDs vs. Ticket Prices.  It's only been three years since Nemo, but the DVD market has changed dramatically.  Between faster release times, mail dvd rental services, and the High cost of going to the movies, most people and families would rather see a movie once and/or wait for the DVD release.

    3. Crowded market place.  2006 is so jam packed with new releases, more than I remember in recent memory.  Name one movie, beside X2, that release the same time as Nemo in 2003?  There have been two animated moves with in weeks of each other this year alone.

    Cars will do fine.  The toys are selling like Gangbusters.  I can only find the Lightning and Mater die cast cars... when I do find them.  I'm still waiting for Amazon.com to sell Red with Stanley.  The DVD will go crazy at Christmas time.  Unless Monster House, Open Season, or Barnyard are spectacular (which I doubt) you are looking at your Acadmey Award winner.

    Was the Pixar purchase worth it to Disney?  Oh yeah.

    What could be a problem is the next movie, Ratatouille.  I don't know how many people said, "That looks stupid" in the theatre.  I have absolute faith in Brad Bird.  I think the trailer is great.  The animation... unbelievable.  Having a later summer release date might be beneficial to the movie.
  • I forgot Ant Bully and Flushed Away.  The only real competition for the oscar could come from Flushed Away, but I have faith Cars will win.

    As for Pete Doctor's new movie about "Monsters," if you watch Cinderella's special features, there is a documentary on Mary Blair.  Many animators talk about Mary Blair, including Pete Doctor.  There he revealed he is working on his next feature.  He also talked about posting lots of Mary Blair art around the studio to inspire the artists for his feature.  Take that for what it's worth.

    Also, as a side note, there is a podcast mentioned that Andrew Stanton is working on a new feature.  That's all they said.

    On the Simpson's 7th season DVD, the commentary mentioned that someone who was a show runner is working on a 2008/9 Pixar release.  That's all he was allowed to say.
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