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Monday Mouse Watch: Disney's delighted with the amount of treasure that "Dead Man's Chest" has been hauling in, while "Cars" actual box office earnings continue to decline

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Monday Mouse Watch: Disney's delighted with the amount of treasure that "Dead Man's Chest" has been hauling in, while "Cars" actual box office earnings continue to decline

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Well, I'll say this much for all you "Cars" fans out there: You're consistent.

To explain: For the past four weeks, I've been getting e-mails from JHM readers who are also big-time Pixar promoters. And these notes ... Well, let me share a fairly typical one. Which showed up in my in-box this past Saturday. It reads:

Hey, *sshole

Despite all of your predictions that this John Lasseter film would fail, "Cars" is still chugging along quite nicely at the box office. In fact, this new Pixar Animation Studios release just blew through the $200 million barrier for ticket sales during its initial domestic release. So when are you finally going to admit that you were dead wrong about this movie?


First of all, I never said that I thought that "Cars" was going to be a failure. What I did do is write several stories last month which talked about how some folks on Wall Street as well as various studio insiders were initially disappointed with how this John Lasseter film had been performing during its few weeks of domestic release.

Of course, that initial feeling of disappointment eventually gave way to muted optimism when "Superman Returns" turned out to be such a surprisingly weak performer. This meant that "Cars" actually caught a break, allowing this new animated feature to enjoy an extra week or so of fairly strong ticket sales. Which then boosted the film's box office.

Which is why it now appears that Pixar's newest picture will eventually come close to earning what "Monsters, Inc." made during its initial domestic release back in November of 2001. Which was $255 million.

Copyright 2006 Disney/Pixar

But (At the risk of once again riling up all of you Pixar fans out there) this isn't actually what the Walt Disney Company wanted when they shifted "Cars" release date from November of 2005 to June of 2006. You see, when studio officials originally did this back in December of 2004, what they were honestly hoping for was that John Lasseter's latest animated feature would then become a really-for-real summer blockbuster.

You know? Like "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ?

What's that you say? The Walt Disney Company must be thrilled with both of these movies, given that "Cars" has earned an estimated $219.6 million to date, while "Dead Man's Chest" has pulled in a reported $258.2 million so far ... So -- given that a mere $38.6 million currently separates the box office totals of these two pictures -- Mouse House executives must now logically view these films as being equally successful, right?

Wrong. Anyone familiar with the way Hollywood really does business will tell you that Gore Verbinski's latest film has already put hundreds of millions of dollars in Mickey's wallet. Whereas the slow-but-steady approach that John Lasseter's latest film has taken toward box office dominance ... Well, that hasn't actually translated to the windfall that Disney execs had been hoping for.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises

To explain: When a theater chain signs a contract with a movie studio (Where it agrees to begin showing a certain film starting on a certain date on a certain number of screens in a certain number of theaters), there's always language in that contract that specifies what percentage of the ticket sales the theater gets to keep and what percentage they then have to send back to Hollywood. Typically, during the first week that a new movie is in release, the studio gets to keep 90% of the money that a theater raises through the sale of tickets for a particular picture. Which means that this theater chain only gets to hang onto 10% of the money.

However, starting with this film's second week in release, the split changes. With the movie studio that actually produced this film now only receiving 80% of the money raised through ticket sales, while the theater chain then gets to hang onto 20%.

In Week 3, the split changes yet again. With the studio now receiving only 70% while the theater chain grabs 30%. In Week 4, the split continues its downward track. With only 60% of ticket sales fee going back to the studio, while the theater chain getting to hang onto 40%. And so on ...

So if you take this formula into account whenever you're reviewing what "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "Cars" have earned to date ... Suddenly these numbers look very different. Take -- for example -- the $219.6 million that "Cars" has hauled in so far ...

Amount of money that "Cars" has earned during that week in release
That week's percentage split between Walt Disney Studios and the theater chains

Revised Totals
(Money that Disney actually made that week from ticket sales that week)

Week No. 1
$83.3 million
$74.97 million
Week No. 2
$50.0 million
$40 million
Week No. 3
$34.6 million
$24.2 million
Week No. 4
$27.1 million
$16.26 million
Week No. 5
$16.9 million
$8.45 million
Weekend No. 6
$7.4 million
$4.04 million
$219.6 million
$163.88 million

... Because it took this John Lasseter film 38 days to actually pull in that $219.6 million, only $163.88 million will eventually wind up in Mickey's pocket. Whereas the $258.2 million worth of tickets that "Dead Man's Chest" has sold over the past 10 days ...

Amount of money that "Dead Man's Chest" has earned during that week in release
That week's percentage split between Walt Disney Studios and the theater chains

Revised Totals
(Money that Disney actually made that week from ticket sales that week)

Week No. 1
$196 million
$176 million
Weekend No. 2
$62.1 million
$49.68 million
$258.1 million
$225.68 million

... $225 million now goes straight into Disney's wallet. All because this Gore Verbinski film is currently having such a great run at the box office.

Of course, it is worth noting here that -- thanks to how spectacularly well all of the "Cars" toys are selling -- the folks at Disney Consumer Products are already declaring this Pixar Animation Studios release to be a huge success. Conversely, given how poorly the "Dead Man's Chest" action figures have been selling, there's reportedly already been some semi-serious talk at DCP about scaling back the toy lines that are tied to the third "Pirates" film, "At World's End."

Anyway ... Getting back to the start of today's column: From now on, when Pixar fans write to me and say "When are you finally going to acknowledge that 'Cars' really has done quite well this summer?," I'm just going to point to this piece and say "Okay. I admit it. This John Lasseter film has done quite well. Just not as well as Wall Street & certain Disney executives had originally hoped it would."

Again (not to belabor my point here, but), what Mouse House execs were actually hoping for when they changed "Cars" release date from November of 2005 to June of 2006 was a summer blockbuster. Not a solid performer that would eventually earn $200 million after it had been in theaters for 30 days. But -- rather -- a genuine box office phenomenon like "Dead Man's Chest." A motion picture that audiences would eagerly seek out, one that would blow by the $200 million mark after being in release for only 8 days.

And anyone who tells you different ... Well, they're just playing the revisionist history game. Insisting that it's now okay that "Cars" will eventually probably earn as much as "Monsters, Inc." did in its initial domestic release. When it's clear that Disney studio executives really had a much higher gross in mind (Think "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles" -sized numbers) when they originally shifted the release date of this new John Lasseter film from November of 2005 to June of 2006.

Your thoughts?

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  • Exactly, not a failure by any standards... but not what it should have done. Fact is that Cars is a summer film while both Incredibles & MI were fall/winter films. They got a few vacation days, but they really only had the weekends to get money. Cars on the other hand has everyday as a Saturday. I'm not saying it should have done Nemo's numbers but it should definitely have done better than MI & Incredibles.

    As for Dead Man's Chest, I don't think there are words to describe what the people at Disney must be feeling right now. This movie has broken so many records so far and still have many more to break.
  • I agree with askmike1.
    Cars did have a fighting chance in the summer. For a movie that was given as much hype as Cars, it's dissapointing to see the figures of their total sales so far. Whoever wrote that email to Jim referring him as an a**hole needs to learn how to make a strong argument without properly looking into how the entertainment business works.
    Also, it does seem understandable how the Cars based toy market seems to succeed at a much higher level than the Dead Mans Chest toys' since the concept of Cars seem more playful and fun rather than the second pirates movie theme in which was made to target a slightly older audience. Anyway, how would I know. I'm new at the scene.
    Nice website Jim.
  • Only a week late hey Jim

    What ever Cars ends up making it most surely be a suscess compare to what other CGI movies have made this year.And thats what we should be looking at here not how much Cars has dissapointed Wall Street and Studio Execs.Also what you fail to point out out is that Cars is the 3rd highest grossing movie of 2006 and if your predictions come true then it should past Xmen's domestic total.

    Im not saying you don't have a point with what your writing about,just that its now coming of as you being bitter,as you can make this argument about any movie.Also you miss a big difference in what Cars is making compare to what Monsters Inc took,in that Disney take the full takings of any Pixar movie now.And the fact Cars is hanging on must mean that its recieving a good word of mouth,which will bound well for DVD sales this Christmas,which like all the DCP's based cars toys will all be going for the first time ever straight into Mickey's pockets.

    Also message for everyone what ever you think of Mr Hill's views,it still makes no escuse to e-mail him calling the guy a *sshole.Thats just out of order!

    Oh Jim by the way I don't agree with today's article and I think your trying to save face, now that Cars has surpassed the $200 Million which a couple of weeks back you down played them doing.Also today should of been about POTC not another escuse to run down Cars,but see why you did it as there isn't a lot of negativity surrounding POTC,so you had to find something to bash!  
  • To be honest Jim, I love most of your articles but this one was trash.

    A) How can Disney execs expect Cars to beat all the records like Dead Mans Chest is?

    B) Disney is "delighted" with how POTC: DMC is doing?  Shitting their pants is more like it.  It has surpassed all the records in the record book.  It is doing ridiculously well, better than any other film.....EVER.  So, for them to think Cars would do the same...Ahem...no way.  
    C) Show me some sources where you found that the contracts work this way at the theatres.  Cars is an underperformer for Pixar, recently speaking, but is sure not an underperformer.  And i dont even believe thats how the contracts work at theatres.

    ONe thing is for sure.  They never expected for Cars to succeed as much as POTC for a number of reasons.  ITs not an epic film like SpiderMan or Starwars like POTC is.  Animation films core audiences are familes.  POTC has the upperhand because it has a much wider demographic.  Cars has an even smaller demographic because of its subject matter, NASCAR and mostly American concepts...which kill alot of its International Box Office Numbers.  

    Bottomline, no studio could ever "expect" a film to do as well as POTC: DMC has thse past ten days.  All they could do is ever hope, or dream of such a thing to happen.  They expected "Cars" to be slightly more succesful then Incredibles and Finding Nemo in its opening weekend...didnt happen.  But now it looks to be just as succesful as Incredibles and Monsters INc in its Domestic Release.  So this is a smash hit if you ask me.  

    Im done with my rant.
  • Cars hasn't even opened yet here in the UK, but....

    My wife and I and a female friend went to see POTC2 last week. During the trailer for Supermnan Returns the whole audience applauded, and both of my lady companions said that they wanted to see it. Great.

    And then the Cars trailer came on.

    All the males in the audience were grinning like idiots. However, all the women started talking, getting up to go get sweeties or off to the loos, etc.

    Basically, the film is a man thing. It isn't a family film at all - I can't imagine little Jessica or Bethany sitting still through a film about motor-racing (incidentally my other half says that the anthromorphisied cars looked '... odd').

    I think that Cars suffered from 'Fuzzy Thinking' (TM) when it was made. If they wanted a summer blockbuster or whatever, they basically alienated 50% of the potential audience straight off the , ahem, starting grid. Also, very few people outside the US areinterested in American motor-racing.

    As a fully-fledged male with a more than a wallet-unheathy interest in motor vehicles, the NASCAR aspects of the film leave me cold.

    So it never, from the first time I heard about this, oh, two years ago, appealed to me, and I thought straightaway that it wouldn't appeal to the family audince of say an 'Incredibles' or 'Nemo'.

    So there we go, and my final word is this: why on earth are Disney putting this out so late in the UK? Granted the school holidays only really start this week, but all the kids I talk to pretty much regard cars as old news. It's not just us animation-writer geeks who trawl the us movie websites, y'know!

    Anyhow, thanks for an always enjoyable site.

    Nos da.
  • I don't live in the UK, WelshJohnny, but I'm an American college-age girl whose only concern with cars is if mine will drive me to where I need to go.  I have no interest in them.  Even if I hadn't seen any promotion for "Cars", I would have seen it because I'm a big Disney and Pixar animation fan.  But, saying all that, I loved the movie.  A lot.  It was great.  The world of racing is only the backdrop.  Just like, at the end of the day, it didn't matter that Woody and Buzz were toys, or that Flik and Heimlich were bugs, etc.; it's about the story (I know, you've all heard that before).  But I think it's true.  Try it, you'll like it!

    Since "Finding Nemo" did so well, some people (at Pixar or Disney or just anyone) may have expected/hoped that the following movies would do as well or better.  Remember what happened when "The Lion King" did so well?  Disney thought that "Pocahontas" would have done as well or better, but that didn't happen (I can't find the link, but I read an article recently about that).  It's business, I know, but it's unfortunate that the individual movies can't be taken separately.  $219 M is nothing to sneeze at, but it's not $339 M...luckily, the toys ARE selling well, so that's making up for it.

    Even though "Cars" and POTC are both Disney movies, I don't think of them as in the same market...I'm not comparing how well they do in comparision to the other, since they're so different.  If they were both animated, maybe I would compare, but they're just completely different kinds of movies.

    I had no idea that that's how movies' profits are split (you learn something new every day).  Lastly, thank you, Jim, for saying that "Okay. I admit it. This John Lasseter film has done quite well."  :-)
  • Just out of interest did Jim ever call Shark Tale,Madagascar and Over the Hedge dissapointments because none acheived as much as what Shrek made!

    Throught not!
  • Jesus effin' christ, are you guys bitter.  Honestly, I wish the comment section hadn't been introduced; all it seems to be used for these days is attacking Jim.

    Everyone seems to be overlooking how almost EVERY major movie this summer (excluiding Pirates) hasn't met the insanely high expectations that the studios have had.  The numbers that they announce or discuss internally mean absolutely squat, so I'm not quite sure why we continue to hold them to them.

    Also, comparing Cars to Pirates seems like comparing apples to pudding: they're not the same kind of movie at all, so why even attempt it?
  • "So this is a smash hit if you ask me."

    But what everyone on this board keeps forgetting is that no one is asking you.

    You're not an expert, and you didn't have millions of dollars invested in this.

    If I walk up to your home and tell you I have a proposition for you: give me all your life savings now and I'll give you four times that next week.  Next week I only give you a third back, and tell you I hope I can get the rest.  Three weeks later I end up managing to get you twice what you gave me.  You'd be happy you made money, right, but be a bit hesitant to trust me with that much money again, as I came through but it was close?

  • I would like to know what Disney's research says as to why it took so long for Cars to reach $200 million. Was it poor initial marketing of the film - too much of the racing which made it look like a boys film and not enough of the "Doc Hollywood" part of the story that would be of more interest to girls and women? The weekend it opened - not in terms of the other movies out then, but did people have a lot more to do that weekend - little league playoffs, etc.?

    Also, what was the cause of the slow upticking trend - good word of mouth or was it people's backup second choice when they couldn't get it to their first choice of movie at the megaplex?

    In any event, studios NEVER release their net profits, they only concentrate on the gross. So you bet Cars was a $200 MILLION SMASH HIT  like Monsters, Inc.

    Also, don't under estimate the importance of the strong sales of toys and other Cars merchandise. That makes it a hit to Disney's partners who will be more likely to jump in to bed with them for future films.

    And, finally lets not lose sight of the fact of how many of Walt's cartoon films actually lost money on their initial release and/or were actually panned by the film critics back then. They are now part of the bedrock that generates consistant bucks for Disney on their re-release on DVD. So, Cars didn't make a huge net on its initial release, it performed solidly, and will continue to generate profits for Disney in the years and decades ahead.

    Cars - a grand slam? No. But I would say a long, empty bases homerun that along with POTC:DMC grand slam, will give the Disney Studios the summer movie pennant.
  • Well, looked it up and it is true--Jim DID suggest in his first article that "Cars flopped!"-Mania *may* have been due to Disney execs building castles in their imaginations, based on their ridiculously expecting the movie to outdo "Finding Nemo", as the rest of us real posters had been suggesting...
    But frankly, this many articles in (not to mention the "THANK you, Spock..." ultra-dissecting of past box-office statistics every single weekend, bringing up those "Chicken Little" crusade memories) the reputation of Cars-Killer Jim is beginning to stick.

    Everyone knew Pirates 2 was going to be big--Even Disney.
    Lasseter only moved Cars to November A) because they didn't want CL as competition, and B) some little industry birdies had been telling them that "Incredibles was a flop because it didn't make as much as Nemo, must've been 'cause of the fall release!"
    I think it's fair to say that if Lasseter -had- put Cars out in November, we would've seen a royal pantsing of Mr. Little the likes of which hadn't been seen since Incredibles vs. Polar Express....But then, there would've been that Narnia thing to worry about.  Some days, you just can't win.

    Basic truth:  It's only boardroom executives who think One Movie Is In Theaters At a Time.  The rest of us real moviegoers enjoy freedom of choice, and make our decisions from there.
  • All the numbers mean nothing unless you include another column for costs.  Revenues alone are meaningless.  Any chance you can dig up the true production costs of both movies?  At that point the comparison will hold water.
  • Can someone explain to me how cute little fish appealed to men? Monsters and superheroes appealed to women? I don't see how race cars could alienate women more than the aforementioned could alienate men and women. And don't forget that a large part of southern America is into Nascar, men and women alike. To sit there and say "women aren't interested in cars" is a lazy stereotype. Not to mention, it undermines the concept that the largest demographic are young children, most of whom can't go to a movie without their Mom.

    I think what everyone is missing is that the movie industry as a whole is a failure and that studios need to start rethinking how much they spend. Pirates was an anomaly inasmuch as Narnia was. They just clicked and helped transcend the other blockbusters. King Kong, MI3, X3, Superman, etc etc....are all victims of spending too much in a falling industry. Theatres are old, people in them are obnoxious, prices are expensive and turnaround to DVD is so quick it negates the need to put up with all of that. People are so quick to judge a movie by its box office take...but you really can't judge it until DVD and overseas come through. I have a feeling Cars will have Disney execs smiling a little more after the whole world sees it and it's arrived under lots of Xmas trees.
  • Hi Desperado!
    I agree with what you say - to a point!
    I am sure that lots of women are big NASCAR fans, but I am only reporting what I saw at the POTC2 showing last week here in the UK.

    As far as I could see, very few of the female audience were interested in the 'Cars' trailer. When i checked with the box office people later to reserve my seats for the first showing (yes, I know, very sad), they said the advance sales were very slow, nowhere near the levels of 'Incredibles' or 'Nemo'.

    I asked about with local children and it seemed to be a pretty much 50/50 sex-related split between boys and girls on the film. Although all the girls did say that they would 'more than likely' see it on dvd later.

    Oh, and over here the theatres (or as we call them, cinemas) are going through a major renaissance, both in audience numbers and new building.

    Here in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, (population 316,000 at last census, with a catchment area of about 500,000 within fifty miles) for example, we have three major multi-screens, the newest of which is only a few years old, another a few miles away in Llantrissant, and another multi-screen is about to be built an hour away down in Carmarthen.

    We actually have more screens in operation now than we have ever had before - when I was a little kid in the late '50s, we had 17 cinemas in the town!

    And I'm sure you are right - that Disney will indeed be smiling when the totals for the rest of the world are added up and the dvds are under the xmas trees!

    But most importantly - how did you all enjoy the film? Ladies as well as Gents?

    Nos da.

  • Longtime listener, first-time caller...

    Nice article, Jim. Glad to see you back online after your airport purgatory adventure last week. Quality time w/ Alice is more important than trying to appease the haterade drinkers here in the comments section.

    I'll admit, I don't always *like* the information in your financial-based articles but...that information is part of the big picture. and it's necessary information that we need to keep in mind. Because the world does not revolve around me, the fact that I personally don't like some of the things that happen in it doesn't make those things untrue or irrelevant, you know? The real world is more complicated and interesting than that.

    It's like...being an aunt or parent, I guess. I love my nieces and nephews to death, and think they are fun, great people who are capable of great things...but I know they're not perfect. And every now and then they screw up, act like demon spawn, or do dumb things without thinking them through. I don't love the kiddos any less, but as one of the trusted adults in their lives, it's really kind of my job to call them on it when their boneheadedness crosses the line from "harmless" to "unacceptable." It would be criminally stupid and insane to be all, "You didn't study and got a D on your test. Who cares? You're the bestest, smartest kid in the world and the teacher's just a hater!!!" or "You robbed a convenience store? Well, you're awesome! The criminal justice system is just stupid!"

    Point? You're that aunt, Jim. Or uncle, rather. You love Disney/PIXAR, but not blindly. The common-sense analysis of things like CARS's theatrical performance doesn't change that. It makes your love more credible, if that makes sense.

    There are enough "Disney/PIXAR rulez! Why? Because they're the best!!!!!!!!!!1!!!" sites out there.  JHM isn't a about fawning. It's about loving Disney enough to think about it & tell the truth about it.
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