If you go strictly by the numbers, there aren't really a whole lot of reasons to be happy with the way "Ratatouille" performed this past weekend.
Were you to compare how this new Brad Bird film opened versus how other earlier Pixar movies did over their opening weekends ...
... You'd quickly see that this is the worst opening weekend performance by a new Pixar Animation Studios film in nearly a decade.
Then -- if you go by the per-theater-average numbers -- the news gets even worse ...
... With "Ratatouille" just barely managing to do as well as "Toy Story" did back when that John Lasseter film was first released to theaters in November of 1995. And then when you factor in what a dollar was worth back in 1995 versus what a dollar is worth today ... You quickly realize that "Ratatouille" actually is Pixar's worst earner to date.
So -- harkening back to last Monday's story -- we now have "Ratatouille" (Which failed to meet its projected $60 million opening weekend gross by 20%) coming on the heels of "Cars" (Which also failed to meet its projected $75 million opening weekend gross by 20%). Which -- in Wall Street's eyes, anyway -- is going to be seen as the start of a downward trend for the Emeryville-based animation studio.
And given that the Walt Disney Company is now pinning so many of its hopes for the future on Pixar's ability to creatively revitalize that corporation ... Well, you'd think that it would be safe to assume that Mouse House officials would be severely depressed by how poorly "Ratatouille" performed this past weekend.
Well, think again.
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To explain: I just got off the phone with Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios. Who basically told me that it wouldn't be wise to label "Ratatouille" Pixar's first real disappointment. Not yet, anyway.
"You have to understand that we chose this particular opening date for a reason," Viane explained. "What with July 4th being right in the middle of the week this year, we've now got people taking off for vacation in the days just prior to the holiday as well as people taking vacation time after the Fourth. Then when you factor in that 90% of the kids in the country are now out of school ... Well, that's a huge audience pool for us to draw from."
"We've now got the best reviewed film in the country which people just love once they actually get to see it," Chuck continued. "So you can bet that -- when people sit down at the picnic table over the Fourth of July and talk about what movies they've just seen -- 'Ratatouille' is going to come up. And it's that word-of-mouth that's going to make all the difference here."
Viane argued (quite convincingly, I might add) that the best indicator of how well this Brad Bird film is ultimately going to do isn't going to be its opening weekend grosses. But -- rather -- what "Ratatouille" manages to rake in domestically over the 10 days between June 29th and July 9th. When the whole country will basically be on an extended 4th of July holiday.
"We know that this is an extremely competitive summer. But we also know that 'Ratatouille' is a great little movie," Viane said. "That's why we held that sneak preview two weeks ago. The best advertisement for 'Ratatouille' really is the movie itself."
Given "Ratatouille" 's great reviews and strong word-of-mouth, Chuck seemed supremely confident that Pixar's latest production will develop legs. "I'm going to be extremely surprised if this picture isn't still in theaters come Labor Day," he added.
Me personally, I have to admit that I don't share Viane's optimism. In a summer where virtually every major studio release has seen ticket sales fall off by more than 55 - 65 % over its second weekend in release, I find it extremely hard to believe that "Ratatouille" going to be the one movie that bucks that trend. Becoming the very first film of the summer to actually develop some legs.
But since I am so often accused of being far too downbeat when it comes to Pixar, with JHM readers claiming that I always look for the worst whenever I write about this Emeryville-based animation studio's releases ... I guess it wouldn't hurt to follow Mr. Viane's suggestion and hold off on any further discussion / dissection of "Ratatouille" 's box office performance until we actually see how well this Brad Bird movie does over its second weekend in release.
So what do you folks make of how well "Ratatouille" did (or didn't do) at the box office this past weekend? More to the point, do you think that Chuck Viane's claim is valid? That -- even during this extremely competitive summer when people's movie-going habits are so rapidly changing -- that this Brad Bird movie is actually going to develop such long legs that this animated feature will still be in theaters come Labor Day?
Why wouldn't this have legs? Every other Pixar movie, and indeed most animated movies, period, tend to have much stronger legs than the live-action smash-and-grab blockbusters. That's how Cars made it to the #2 spot last year (which you insisted didn't count and was being ignored by the Disney people--so why, Jim, are you suddenly acknowledging that Ratatouille will make money over the long haul?)
A few people have commented elsewhere that it's always the LAST movie that affects the current one. So Cars, Pixar's first real disappointment, may have led to a lack of interest for this movie. However, Ratatouille has a major advantage over Cars: it's a tremendous movie, and the people who have seen it seem to love it. I think Viane knows what he's talking about. In fact I'm going to predict that Ratatouille makes almost as much money on monday and tuesday as it did on saturday and sunday--this is a big moviegoing week.
By the way, I love the title of the article: "It's too early to write off Ratatouille!" Really, Jim? Three days after the movie opens is too early to write it off? Thanks for the revelation!
I saw Ratatouille on opening night .... Although by far the best movie I have seen this year (in any genre), I didn't find it as truly breakthrough and original as the Incredibles.
Still ... this is the first movie I have seen Pixar make that truly feels like the Disney classics. It's a brilliant movie .... so what if the younger kids in the theater were bored and noisy... so what if the movie doesn't make its numbers.
In the past month I have seen ... Spiderman3, Shrek 3, POTC3, Evan Almighty, Die Hard4, and Fantastic Four. Ratatouille is the best movie of them all .... I say so friggen what if it doesn't make opening numbers.
And for that matter even though CARS was considered the least satisfying of the PIXAR movies, I recall still saying it was one of the best movies of last summer as well.
Pixar = quality entertainment = original content = cutting edge animation = heart = masterpiece. Bottom line.
Now that that is out of the way ....
Someone mentioned that all of the so called blockbusters this year have had a drop of 40% to 60% after the first week.
I would like to speculate as to why this is. ... Someone else said it earlier ... It’s that little ROBOT movie.
I'm afraid people just don't understand this one.... maybe it’s been so long since we've seen it (Titanic 1997).
But Transformers is the big one.... I’m talking the sleep in tents the night before, cover of TIME, Newsweek and Rolling Stone, take your girlfriend, take your grandma, seen it 5 times in a row kind of big one.
People have been saving their money for this one.... think about it.... it’s the only logical reason that Pirates isn't raking in monumental numbers. Ratatouille quite frankly doesn't stand a chance.
I would say that the Rat has word of mouth going for it ... but I am afraid that Transformers is going to have the word “phenomenon” attached to it before the summer is over. I don't care what you think of Michael Bay.
Jim very well might be right, but I hope he isn't. I saw this movie yesterday, and I adored it. I thought everything about it was fantastic, and I will see it at least once more. And I will be telling others how much I enjoyed it.
I think the movies this summer that had the big drop-offs in business are the ones that had built-in appeal but then underwhelmed the people who saw them, resulting in bad word of mouth. "Ratatouille" is the opposite; various things about it might have given people an unfavorable impression, but when people see it, they love it. I think if anytihng can buck the drop-off trend, "Ratatouille" is it.
I saw it yesterday and I agree with everyone who said ... it's cute and charming. It didn't blow my socks off like Cars did, but it was a good little film.
I seriously doubt it's going to be a big blockbuster, though. It's just not that kind of film. You know the entire time I was thinking to myself, "This feels like an indie film."
And it did ... it was really odd in a way. I'm not used to having that feeling from an animated film. It wasn't bad .... just ... different. In a good way, though. I'm just not sure it's going to resonate with kids the way Pixar's prior films have. I think they have to hope to draw the grown-ups back in for multiple screenings, because I'm not sure the kiddies are going to be screaming to go back.
I hope Pixar hasn't misjudged its audience here ... this film, Wall-E ... they look a lot more like adult fare to me.
Enjoy good movies like this while they last. There will come a time when cute movies like this, give way to only fart/burp Shrekesque comedies. Because god forbid children should be made to sit in their seats and pay attention to a movie, instead of using the babysitting teqnique of rolling to the next dumb joke.
What a superb movie though. Having saw pirates so many times, and the other movies I saw, I never experienced children-wise what I experienced in our theater though. Children, literally RUNNING up and down the stairs. Yelling things out constantly. I know its a kids movie, but there were children around us who sat well behaved, and didnt move. Minor gripe tho.
I actually watched The Incredibles before I saw Ratatouille, and I think Rat was by far better. Definitly in my pool of favorite movies.
We saw Rat Saturday (6pm) and the theater wasn't packed, but wasn't empty either. Myself, my wife and my son all thought it was good (even very good), but we didn't looooove it as a lot of people here seem to. In fact, we all thought Cars was a better movie. Considering my wife and son are not huge fans of Cars (one of my favorite movies) that says a lot.
It does seem that we are int he minority here, but then again I was i the minority when it came to Cars and Chicken Little.
Transformers is going to add an interesting dynamic. I grew up with transformer toys. However, I have a 9 year old son now. he wants to see it, but we are holding off to get a better idea of what is in the movie.
Looking at some of the weather models for the Northeast, we are looking at rain 7/4, 7/5 and 7/6 and that may really play into whether or not this movie has legs. You're on vacation, it's raining, the kids are driving you nuts and Rat is getting great reviews. Time to get out of the house/hotel room and head to the movies for a couple of hours.
It's an excellent movie, and word of mouth will keep it going. If I'm Disney, I'm not panicing at all.
I enjoyed Rat far more than Nemo, Bug's Life, or even the Incredibles. It's as good as Monsters Inc or Toy Story. Heaven knows I love to criticize Disney, but this is a solid story. It will do well.
I'm afraid the Rat is going to have a hard time at the box office in the weeks to come. Transformers, Harry Potter, the Simpsons...the competition is going to be killer.
And there's another thing...the Rat is a pleasant little fellow in a pleasant little film...but, while that film is better than Cars, it's not the equal of Toy Story or Monsters Inc., and that's what it needed to be.
LOVED the movie. Pixar does it again. Wall Street can just kiss my (bleep). If the so-called experts are too short sighted to understand the Pixar purchase was the best thing Disney could do for itself and its quality, then pray they don't start influencing the Mouse House into doing things for the almighty profit again, this time taking Pixar down with it. Ugh.
That said, I doubt the movie reaches blockbuster status and it will be lucky to cross the $180 million threshold, what with all the summer competition coming up. If it drops by 50% this weekend (which it most likely will), it should be considered a success. I agree with whoever said Transformers will be the phenomenon of the summer... though I'm surprised it's only getting around 70% on the tomatometer right now. Which is good, because if that movie has any depth beyond the surely insane action scenes, Rat probably wouldn't have much hope.
I think it would be easier to develop legs if there weren't any other kiddie-fare coming out. But I know quite a few people ready to take their 5-8 year olds to see Transformers, which will probably have better word of mouth with the kids than Ratatouille.
"Mommy, I wanna see the esploding robots again pleeeeeeeease."
"Aw honey, we already saw that twice. How about Ratatouille? That looks like a really goo..."
"Eeeew, no like the rats. Wanna see robot 'splosions AGAIN!"
I think the Harry Potter opening may not have as much effect as some people think. I am not on a "schedule" when it comes to seeing movies, and I doubt that most people are. I will see both these movies, probably within two weeks of each other, because they are of great interest to me. They may well be the only movies I see this year, but I will see them because I want to, not because there opening dates are sufficiently separated.
I think that Jim's missing one key part of the summer. Knocked up. Knocked up was the best-reviewed wide release of the summer, and it's the only film to have gained legs. In such a competitive summer, the trailers blend together and all we have to work with is word of mouth. That's exactly what made Knocked Up a hit, and I think it can do the same for Ratatouille. It also means repeat viewings. I saw Ratatouille during the sneak preview, and I saw it again this past weekend with people I recommended it to. I did the same for Knocked Up. I saw it opening weekend, and then saw it again. It's great to see that quality was actually rewarded with Knocked Up. Let's hope this seemingly archaic concept continues with Ratatouille.
"But let's face it, if any studio released Citizen Kane, or Gone with the Wind, and didn't meet opening numbers, would it really mean that the film (and, more to the point, the filmMAKERS) were off their game? No, of course not. Numbers mean a lot, but they don't tell a complete story about the value of the company (and the people) who make the movies,"
Actually, numbers are the full value to those putting the money in. And if they are not taking the money back, their opinion is what matters. There will always be prestige pieces, but not for the cost of a CGI film.
And yes, 3 days is a good time to reflect upon how a movie is doing and if it should be written off. Legs are increasingly rare, especially this time of year when theaters are particularly crowded.
On the other hand, theaters like keeping at least one kid's film sitting around, and the calendar is looking good for Pixar in that regard.
I have no reason to doubt this movie will have legs. Sure, few films do, but those that manage are often high profile animated films.
This movie is on my short list for the holidays... I've been impressed with the visuals from the trailers, and the reviews all are extremely heartening. I hope that Ratatouille does have 'legs'..
Even though this movie, according to Jim, wasn't made for a Buena Vista Pictures/Disney release, did anyone notice the very Disney like theme in this film?
The reviewer in the Chicago Sun-Times put it this way... "pursue the dreams with all the gusto you can"....
"If you can dream it, you can do it'.... Where have we heard this before?
Even if this movie originally wasn't going to be released by Disney, the team at Pixar certainly channeled one of the strongest themes that we as consumers of Disney products see at the parks, etc...,
just my .02c.
So Walt, What do you think about Ratatouille's number versus Shrek's numbers?
"I am not influenced by the techniques or fashions of any other motion picture company." - Walt Disney
Walt, what do you think about Ratatouille aiming for a more adult audience?
"Your dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway." - Walt Disney
Many people say that a movie about a Rat cooking is putting people off. What do you think about that Walt?
"All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable." - Walt Disney
What do you think about the tough competition Ratatouille faces, Mr. Disney?
"I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it." - Walt Disney
Many peole say that Ratatouille is a disappointment because it failed to live up to previous opening weekends. How do you feel about Ratatouille's box office?
"You reach a point where you don't work for money." - Walt Disney
So Walt, you're saying you don't want your movies to make money?
"People look at me in many ways. They've said, 'The guy has no regard for money.' That is not true. I have had regard for money. It depends on who's saying that. Some people worship money as something you've got to have piled up in a big pile somewhere. I've only thought about money in one way, and that is to do something with it. I don't think there's a thing I own that I will ever get the benefit of except through doing things with it. I don't even want the dividends from the stock in the studio, because the government's going to take it away. I'd rather have that in (the company) working..." - Walt Disney
How about that for "Perspective"?