Okay. I admit it. Maybe -- just maybe -- the folks at Walt Disney Studios actually do know what they are doing.
Case in point: "Ratatouille." When this Brad Bird film only sold $47 million worth of tickets over its opening weekend (Which was at least 20% less than the $60 million that industry experts had originally expected this Pixar production to earn over its first three days in theaters) ... It was all too easy for someone like myself -- who trusts in numbers -- to dismiss this new animated feature as a critic's darling that was really struggling to connect with Pixar's usual audience.
Ah, but Chuck Viane -- head of Distribution at Walt Disney Studios -- warned me not to jump to conclusions when it came to "Ratatouille." He said that the Mouse had put an awful lot of thought into the proper positioning of its Rat movie.
"We actually picked our release date about a year ago," Viane explained. "We decided that opening 'Ratatouille' a week after "Evan Almighty' and a week before 'Transformers' would give this picture its very best shot at box office success. And -- as it turns out -- we were right."
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Indeed they were. During the first 10 days that this new Pixar film was in domestic release, "Ratatouille" earned $109.5 million. Which puts this Brad Bird film just a lap or two behind what "Cars" pulled in last year during its first 10 days in U.S. theaters.
Here. Maybe a chart will help illustrate the point that I'm trying to put across here.
So while "Ratatouille" 's opening weekend performance was admittedly less than stellar, this critically acclaimed animated feature quickly made up ground by pulling in some very impressive grosses over last week's extended Fourth of July holiday.
Mind you, Viane attributes "Ratatouille" 's strong performance last week not just to the rave reviews and/or the great word-of-mouth. But -- rather -- because last week's other big earners (i.e. 20th Century Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard" and Paramount / DreamWorks' "Transformers") weren't really in direct competion with this new Brad Bird film.
"We each had our own audiences. Bruce Willis fans turned out for 'Die Hard,' while teens went for 'Transformers.' Which meant that we pretty much had the family audience all to ourselves," Chuck continued. "Then when you factor in that every day is like a Saturday during the summer ... Well, I'm not honestly surprised that 'Ratatouille' did as well as it did."
Of course, the big test comes tomorrow with the release of Warners' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Which -- you'd think -- would have Viane worried. But again that's where you'd be wrong.
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"Look, I know that Harry Potter fans are very devoted. And I'm certain that those people are going to turn out in huge numbers to see 'Phoenix' this week" Viane said. "But that movie isn't going to have all that much impact on how our movie does. We're talking about two very different fan bases here. There's very little overlap between those two audiences. Which is why I think that 'Ratatouille' will continue to do well as we roll into Weekend No. 3."
Me? Again, I'm not entirely sure that I share Chuck's optimism. It would seem to me that "Ratatouille" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" would have to share an audience. At least a portion of the same audience. Which is why I'll really be interested in seeing by what percentage business for this new Pixar film falls off as it enters its third week in theaters.
I mean, let's be honest here, folks. If you look cold-bloodedly at what "Ratatouille" has earned over its first 10 days in domestic release, this Brad Bird film still lags well behind Pixar's top earners like "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."
To be fair, when I mentioned this to Mr. Viane, the Head of Distribution at Walt Disney Studios said that he didn't feel that such comparisons were fair at all.
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"You can't really compare how a film that opens over the holidays does to the performance of a picture that opens in summer. Those are two entirely different box office seasons, each with their own unique challenges," Chuck stated. "Plus it's not fair to use 'Nemo' as the performance yardstick for all the Pixar films that followed it. That film was unique. As were all the Pixar movies that followed it."
Me? I'm a numbers guy. Which is why it's hard for me not to stack "The Incredibles" box office performance next to how "Cars" did last year, and then compare how "Ratatouille" has done to date to Pixar's most recent releases. And what I (along with many investment analysts) see there is a trend. The slow-but-steady erosion of how much a new Pixar release typically earns during its initial domestic release.
To hear Mr. Viane talk, there's no such thing as a typical Pixar picture. And as for "Ratatouille" 's domestic earnings ... Again to quote from Chuck:
"If by the end of this summer 'Ratatouille' hasn't earned at least as much as 'Cars,' I'm going to be very surprised."
"If by the end of this summer 'Ratatouille' hasn't earned at least as much as 'Cars,' I'm going to be very surprised."
What about you folks? Were you surprised by how well "Ratatouille" did over the extended Fourth of July holiday? More to the point, what do you think this Brad Bird film will have earned by the time it finishes its domestic run?
Your thoughts / predictions?
"- Disney may have overpaid for Pixar (in short term, I mean, seriously; it was a small animation studio with a limited amount of success and no guaranty that it would have been successful in the future), but now that the merger is behind us, I think we all can see that they'll get it all back (still, I keep saying it, making John & Ed animation heads was a bad decision)."
If you put Disney and Pixar head-to-head and compared just the movies they were releasing, Pixar would be a giant heel crushing Disney into the ground. And Disney would sink even further into the muck by trying to boost their balance sheets by releasing truly awful videos that degrade whatever value they once might have had.
Thank you, John and Ed, for stopping that decline, and for trying to restore some sense and dignity to the House of Mouse.
Oh, and by movies I meant animated, but then I'm sure you all knew that anyway.
"If you put Disney and Pixar head-to-head and compared just the movies they were releasing, Pixar would be a giant heel crushing Disney into the ground. And Disney would sink even further into the muck by trying to boost their balance sheets by releasing truly awful videos that degrade whatever value they once might have had.
Thank you, John and Ed, for stopping that decline, and for trying to restore some sense and dignity to the House of Mouse."
I'm sorry, but uhm. "If you put Disney and Pixar head-to-head [..], Pixar would be a giant heel crushing Disney"?! Disney has put out far more movies and if you count all the success of Disney (critical and commercially), it would most definitely be more than Pixar has now. You can't just put them head-to-head, just because of what I just said (Disney more, etc.), and they don't always appeal to the same target groups. You can't just compare "Meet the Robinsons" (Disney animation on crack) to "Ratatouille" for example, because "Rat" has an obviously older audience, was released in a different period (if you would compare them, then yes, Pixar kicked Disney behind opening to a lot more competition).
"when it's so obvious that it's the BEST film this summer is going to produce"
I disagree that it's "jumping the gun" to say that. Reviews are at 96% for this movie at rotten tomatoes, and many absolute raves, a level very few movies get. I'd be shocked if another mainstream movie this year is recieved as well. Potter is getting decent reviews, but not quite as good as earlier movies in the series (not completely surprising considering many fans consider it the weakest book, although it sounds like the movie is an improvement).
Sure, there will be other movies that will make more money this year. But I'd be pleasantly shocked if we saw another movie this summer (or even this year) that was generally considered to be better.
Is it too early to predict Ratatouille for the animation Oscar?
As the saying goes, a high tide lifts all boats. The best thing for Disney would be for Harry to have an amazingly huge opening weekend. While many movie goers will reserve their tickets on line, many will still show up at the multiplexes right before the showtime they would like to catch. If it's sold out, what do you do with the family? Get tickets for the next show that still has seats? Or, do you catch another flick instead? I think, if Ratatouille has a show starting within a half-hour of the start of a Potter showing, Disney could benefit very nicely from this spillover audience.
"Actually, cbarry123, last weekend I gave my children, aged 12 and 8..."
Still 12 and 8 are different than 8 and 5. I say again, anyone with a child under 10 that goes to the movies in the next few weeks will go to Ratatouille. You can't even mention the Simpsons. Noone with a 10 year old and younger is taking kids that age to The Simpsons. Simply put, Ratatouille is THE Summer 2007 kids movie. Not a bad thing to claim.
I'm 19 now, and I've been watching The Simpsons since I was four.
My Dad and I watched it together all the time, and still do when I'm around.
I have two criticisms that don't relate to your relentless Pixar-bashing (which is, indeed, getting very tired). I'd love it if you would run your articles through a spell-check ahead of printing them and – even more importantly – realize that it is not necessary to constantly repeat the director or producer's name in reference to a film. In magazine and newspaper writing, you will see this happen one time but not OVER AND OVER again. This article had, I believe, four references to "this Brad Bird film" in a few hundred words. This isn't typical style and it isn't good style – it is quite annoying to read, in fact. I enjoy the content on the site but this quirk of your writing style really gets on the nerves.
So far this summer I have seen ...
Pirates Of The Caribbean 3
Die Hard 4
and Transformers ...
So far ... the only movies I have seen twice are Transformers and Ratatouille.
I suspect I will see Potter ....in fact I am debating going right now for the midnight showing in 30 minutes.... But I doubt I will see Potter twice.
What does this mean? It means that Transformers and Ratatouille will rule the box office this summer... along with Potter. Everyone is going to see Potter at least once. Transformers ... if you liked it once ... I am willing to be that you want to see it again. (the mark of a true "blockbuster") ... and Ratatouille is all by itself again as a Pixar masterpiece.
BUT ..... All of you people who insist that KIDS will flock to Ratatouille and that it is the kid’s movie of the year..... I don't know if ya'll have in fact seen it... because in both of the showings I saw.... kids were bored... restless ... and silent.... not that they didn't like it ... but I would say that Rat is an adult film... more like a movie an adult would take their parents to see.... or even a "date" movie for some.
And those who think that Transformers is some kind of dark sci-fi flick obviously haven’t seen that one... because it's very much a "kids" movie as well. More than the trailers let on.... trust me. Transformers could very well be the "kids" movie of the summer. I was 7 when I saw Star Wars for the first time ... around the same time I loved "Petes Dragon".
Hey "Sheylon" why don't you loosen up your sphincter...you don't like Jim picking on your precious little Pixar...but, now, you have to critique his writing style?! Go back to grading papers, while those of us who live in the creative world, will continue to tick you off by not conforming to your rules...(mispelled (sp) just to piss you off)! Wow, what a tool. I have origininal copies of many Pixar scripts...lots of typos, misspelled words, etc. ...you'd throw-up if you read ten pages...so, lay off Jim, he represents a lot more of "us", than he does you. Now, in keeping with your back-handed compliment...I enjoy your "style" ...but your "content" really gets on my nerves.
You are not alone. I, too like Chicken Little. It's not great or anything and has many flaws, but it is still fun. I watch it regularly.
You crack me up, guy. I will never understand why you hate Pixar and John Lasseter so much.
"limited amount of success"
Speaking of the Oscars minderbinder, I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday. The competition is very weak this year for Best Animated Film. Here are the eligible films that I am aware of, though I may be missing some and I may be including some that aren't actually eligible: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Bee Movie, Beowulf, Meet the Robinsons, Naruto The Movie, Paprika, Ratatouille, Shrek the Third, Simpsons Movie, Surf's Up, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In my opinion Ratatouille is the best of this list. Since 3 of these movies have not yet been released I simply have to base off rumor and buzz, but I think that Ratatouille will win the Oscar hands down. I'm actually more curious to see if Meet the Robinsons will end up getting a nomination. Based on available tomatometer ratings it is the 4th best film out there behind Ratatouille, Surf's Up, and Paprika, but I don't see the Academy giving a nod to Paprika. In my biased opinion I also think that MtR is better than Surf's Up.
I admit having something against Lasseter (I don't hate him, hating someone is a big deal in my mind). I've got my reasons, other people will think differently, I understand.
But what I don't agree with is that I hate Pixar. There hasn't been a Pixar movie that I haven't loved, even "Cars", which wasn't very strong overall but still great. I agree with all of you saying that Pixar has created better material in the couple of past years, BUT what I totally disagree with is that Pixar is this kind of "magical, holy, untouchable hit machine". Sure, they yet to have a box office or critical flop, but trust me, that day will come. And even though they have a clean reputation of successes now, people need to understand that the studio has only released EIGHT movies. EIGHT. When they have released 46 (Disney) animated movies, every single one of them hits (critical and commercially), you can get back to me and say "Told ya so", but for now I will say that eight is far too little to make such a big deal about Pixar.
([sarcasm]DreamWorks/PDI Animation has released 13 (DW/PDI only) movies, and non was a big-big commercial and critical flop. Wow, I should worship them :O [/sarcasm])
"DreamWorks/PDI Animation has released 13 (DW/PDI only) movies, and non was a big-big commercial and critical flop."
I know you're joking around, but that statement isn't even true. They have had a number of big flops. Based on the numbers from box office mojo, I count four losing money out of the eleven they made themselves, or five out of 14 if you include the Aardman stuff.
The fact is, nobody else has had a streak like Pixar. Most studios would kill to have movies that are as well reviewed and profitable as even Pixar's worst. Disney has made 46 movies, have they had eight in a row as successful as the Pixar flicks? Have they had eight overall that have done that well?
So far, they are an untouchable hit machine. Sure, in the future they may have one that has bad reviews and/or loses money, but so far they have a record that I doubt any other studio can touch much less come anywhere close.
Small note about the DW thing. I was joking around with that comment, yes, but if you look at my exact statement I wasn't wrong (coincidentally). I said, "BIG-BIG commercial AND critical flop".
Sure, "Sinbad" was a box office flop, but it has a RT rating of 47%. Low, but not super low. (Weird, because the movie really stinks.) On the other side, "Shrek 3" has a RT rating of 42%, but is a box office hit. (Which really reflects the current 'popular' atitude of moviegoers.)
"Disney has made 46 movies, have they had eight in a row as successful as the Pixar flicks?"
Well, from "The Little Mermaid" to "Tarzan" I count ten movies. Inflation correct those box office figures, and I guess they do :)
(Oh, and totally unrelated, looking at the all time highest worldwide gross tables makes me want to jump in the air; "At World's End" at number 5!!)