This weekend’s box office turned out to be pretty predictable. Brave, the thirteenth feature from fan-favorite Pixar studios, came out on top with an estimated $66.7 million from 4,127 locations. Easy to see that one coming. More of a question mark was Fox’s R-rated counter-programmer Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Many expected the film to crash in epic fashion; and while $16.5 million from 3,106 locations is not great, it is better than Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy managed last weekend so… yay?
|3||Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter||$16,500,000||$16.5|
|5||Snow White & the Huntsman||$8,012,000||$137|
|6||Rock of Ages||$8,000,000||$28.7|
|7||That’s My Boy||$7,900,000||$28.1|
|9||Men in Black 3||$5,600,000||$163.3|
|10||Seeking a Friend for the End of the World||$3,836,000||$3.8|
So, sure. We all knew that Brave was going to be the big winner this weekend. After Pixar delivered twelve straight first-place debuts there was no reason to believe that number thirteen would buck the trend. The real question for Pixar/Disney was how would Brave stack up against their previous titles? Would the critical disappointment of last year’s sequel to Cars hurt attendance? Or, could the fact that the film featured a female human as its lead (as opposed to, say, a male car, robot or cowboy doll) lessen its overall appeal? Turns out not so much. On either count.
Looking at the first weekend estimate for Brave, the film is almost indistinguishable from other Pixar releases of the past five years. All but one, that is. You may recall that Toy Story 3 opened with $110.3 million on this weekend back in 2010. That’s the second highest opening ever for an animated film, falling between Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third. So, monster 3D sequel aside, Brave’s $66.7 million looks very familiar set next to Pixar’s recent openings:
Wall-E (2008) – $63 million
Up (2009) – $68.1 million
Cars 2 (2011) – $66.1 million
Even if you are not a fan of Pixar animation, you have to give it up to them for consistency. As always, it is important to note that these numbers have not been adjusted for inflation and do not represent 3D premiums (Up was the first to feature the technology) or theatre count differences (Brave is Pixar’s widest release to date) but still, any studio that can deliver $60 million-plus openings year after year is a studio that is doing something right.
With allowances made for Cars 2, that something is still clearly quality. Last year’s critical miss aside, Pixar routinely sees its features reach 95% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes (99% in the case of Toy Story 3). In that respect, Brave is a bit off the mark with its current ranking of 74% – though that almost doubles the Cars 2 score. I wouldn’t expect less-than universal praise to hurt Brave going forward, however. Along with debuts of $60 million or higher, Pixar films are known for their amazing box office legs. With Cars 2 the only exception, all of the studio’s features since 2001’s Monsters, Inc. have gone on to earn over $200 million domestically.
Next to Pixar’s Brave, a film whose box office prospects were all but preordained, few knew what to expect from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It seemed unlikely that it would be a surprise hit along the lines of director Timur Bekmambetov’s previous Wanted, for example; but could it become a disaster on the scale of 2010’s Jonah Hex? Luckily for Fox the answer to that question appears to be no. In fact, Abraham Lincoln has already earned more in three days than Jonah Hex saw in its entire run.
Which is not to say that the R-rated historical/fantasy is out of the woods. The project, based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling novel and produced by Tim Burton, was not acquired on the cheap. It’s unclear how international audiences might receive this all-American monster mash but, with only 39% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, great word of mouth does not seem to be in play here in the US.
With Brave and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sucking up the limelight, it’s easy to forget that there was another movie new to theatres this weekend. That would be Focus Features’ Seeking A Friend for the End of the World. From 1,625 locations the low-budget dramedy earned an estimated $3.8 million. That’s makes for a disappointing per-screen average of $2,361 – a figure nearly equal to what Rock of Ages managed on this, its second, weekend.
Even with the nearly identical grosses of Brave and Cars 2, this weekend’s overall box office was down over last year, mostly due to the fact that Abraham Lincoln did not prove as vital as 2011’s Bad Teacher. Looking ahead, there is almost no way that the fistful of new releases coming next weekend will be able to best Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but who knows? Perhaps I have underestimated the blockbuster potential of Ted?