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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney says it's far too early to write off "Ratatouille"

Monday Mouse Watch : Disney says it's far too early to write off "Ratatouille"

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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 ...

Title of Movie
Year Released
Opening Weekend Gross
"The Incredibles"
2004
$70.4 million
"Finding Nemo"
2003
$70.2 million
"Monsters, Inc."
2001
$62.5 million
"Cars"
2006
$60.1 million
"Toy Story 2"
1999
$57.3 million
"Ratatouille"
2007
$47.2 million
"A Bug's Life"
1998
$33.2 million
"Toy Story"
1995
$29.1 million

... 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 ...

Title of Movie
Number of Theaters
Per-Theater Average
"Finding Nemo"
3,374
$20,821
"Monsters, Inc."
3,237
$19,331
"The Incredibles"
3,933
$17,917
"Toy Story 2"
3,236
$17,734
"Cars"
3,985
$15,086
"A Bug's Life"
2,686
$12,382
"Ratatouille"
3,940
$11,986
"Toy Story"
2,457
$11,860

... 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.


Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. All Rights Reserved

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.


Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. All Rights Reserved

"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.


Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. All Rights Reserved

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?

Your thoughts?

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  • //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.//

    To put it in perspective, here's a list of some of the major releases, and their second-weekend drops:

    Spider-Man 3: -61.5%

    Shrek the Third: -56.4%

    Pirates of the Caribbean- At World's End: -61.5%

    Knocked Up: -36.0%

    Ocean's 13: -45.4%

    Surf's Up: -47.5%

    Fantastic Four- Rise of the Silver Surfer: -65.5%

    Evan Almighty: -51.5%

    Live Free or Die Hard: -47.9%

    Ratatouille: -38.3%

    So...as for this "55-65% trend," well, it appears as though Spider-Man, Pirates, Shrek, and Fantastic Four were the only members of this club.  If you had said 45-65%, well, then you might have had a better argument, as then only Knocked Up and Ratatouille would have bucked the trend.  But considering that six of the ten biggest releases (to see a second weekend) this summer have bucked that trend, it really isn't that much of a trend to begin with.

    Of course, the percentages are just one way to look at it, and considering Pirates, Shrek, and Spidey all opened to over $100 million, it really shouldn't be surprising that they suffered large drops, since it would be quite difficult to maintain those ludicrously high numbers when most of the folks who were dying to see the flick probably saw it the first weekend, and in a fairly crowded summer, some people can't afford the luxury of seeing individual films more than once.

  • Dead wrong on the "no legs" thing.  Not just a great second weekend, but incredible weekdays for the entire week.  The opening weekend was quite a bit lower than even Cars, but it has almost caught up already, at this point it's only 5% behind and will probably pass it in a day or two.

    At the very least, it looks like there's no question this AT WORST will beat Cars, it's already showing very good legs which isn't surprising based on the great reviews and positive audience response.  I don't doubt that this will still be running when school gets back in session, with sizeable weekends until fall.

    There have been plenty of movies with huge openings and huge drops, but that has been happening for years.  And don't forget that Shrek, Spidey, and Pirates were all sequels (big opening) and had mixed to poor reviews and audience reception (big drops).  People are still willing to see movies more than once, or hear about a movie and go weeks after it opened.  But only if the movie is good.  And Ratatouille is the best reviewed movie of the year so far.

  • And forgot to mention...even if Ratatouille just matches Cars domestically, it probably has a good chance to beat it by a huge amount overseas.  Cars was a mild disappointment in the states, but a huge one internationally.  This should reverse that easily.

  • To chime in VERY late on this one....

    I had little desire to see RAT, but some friends wanted to go see it and asked me to join them. So I went.....

    AND LOVED THIS MOVIE!

    The word of mouth I have heard (as well as been spreading myself) is all positive. I have a hard time thinking this movie won't continue to do business for awhile.

    I tip my hat to Pixar.

    PS - PLEASE FIRE THE MARKETING STAFF!!!!!!

  • BoxOfficeMojo (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=ratatouille.htm) has Ratatouille only dropping off by 33% over the 2nd weekend...victory!  

  • Actually 38%...but still very very good.

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