Weekend Box Office: Pixar’s Brave Dominates With $66.7 Million Opening

Katniss! I’m coming for ya!

It’s not surprising to see a Pixar release finish the weekend as the number one film in the country. What is surprising is that the success of Brave marks the studio’s thirteenth title to open at #1. That’s every single film in its library. Thirteen releases. Thirteen hits. All number ones. In what could be labeled Pixar’s first “princess movie,” Brave finished the weekend with an estimated $66.7 million, making it the fifth-highest opening in Pixar history, just behind Up‘s $68.1 million back in 2009. Except for Toy Story 3, which had a three-day total of $110 million, the last few Pixar titles have opened in the $60 million range. Other studios wish they had the same kind of hit-generating capability as Pixar.

Holding strong in its third week of release, Madagascar 3D: Europe’s Most Wanted managed a respectable $20.2 million haul. The hold is surprising considering Brave took over a majority of Madagascar‘s 3D screens. Considering the appeal of this franchise, a fourth installment is all but assured.

Four years ago Timur Bekmambetov’s first American film, Wanted, opened up against the Pixar release WALL-E. It was a good weekend for both as they combined to earn $114 million (WALL-E finished with $63 million, while Wanted earned $51 million). Flash forward to this weekend and we were again treated to another Pixar/Bekmambetov match up. Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike twice with the release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a horror history mash-up based on the popular book. The weekend Battleship was released I wrote in my Weekend Box Office report that “studios love brand names because they have the misguided notion that the audience is already built-in.” AL: VH may have been a popular novel, but gauging the pulse of the audience when its trailer would play before a movie, there were sounds of laughter when the title appeared on-screen. Never a good sign. Thankfully, the budget was in the $70 million range, so its $16.5 million three-day total doesn’t seem so bad. But 20th Century Fox better hope that foreign audiences like seeing one of the most important figures in American history slay bloodsuckers with an ax.

The studio should shoulder most of the blame for how it marketed the release. The posters were Photoshop monstrosities. Watching it at a screening I was reminded of one of The Joker’s signature lines in The Dark Knight – “Why so serious?” If you are going to have a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter you might as well camp the hell out of it and ditch the serious history. And with both Alan Tudyk and Rufus Sewell in supporting roles, the movie A Knight’s Tale popped into my head. Now there’s an interesting mash-up: a romantic adventure comedy set in late Medieval Europe in the mid-14th century that incorporates songs from Queen, David Bowie, and AC/DC among others. Imagine if during the climax of AL: VH, where a train bridge is set on fire, suddenly the chorus of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” finds its way into the soundtrack. Just litter the soundtrack with outside the box classic rock/pop songs (CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” The Doors’ “People Are Strange,”) and sample Steve Jablonsky’s score from The Island (specifically “My Name is Lincoln”) while you’re at it.

Prometheus made it past the $100 million mark this weekend, making it one of the few blockbuster success stories. Of course, $100 million is nothing compared to The Avengers billion-plus haul, but its $260 million worldwide earnings versus a production budget of $130 million should make the suits a 20th Century Fox happy. And when you consider this was a Rated R movie, which don’t perform as well as PG-13 releases in the summertime, grossing more than $100 million is a good thing. While it may be a genre flick, it’s also an adult-oriented picture which seem to be lacking this time of the year. And when the eventual Blu-ray release arrives, watch this one make hand over fist as home theater snobs show off their system to friends and family.

Last week’s poor offerings, Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy, fared better in their second weekend. They are nowhere close to being success stories, unless overseas audiences are clamoring to see Tom Cruise sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” That’s My Boy is a new low for Adam Sandler in terms of being able to open to a film. His movies usually cost in the vicinity of $70-$80 million, with close to half of that amount being his fee for just stepping out of the house and showing up on set. It’s getting to the point now with Sandler that he’s starting to be his character from Funny People, churning out bad comedies yet still having a career because of their profitability.

This weekend sees Snow White and the Huntsman on top of the 8-week-old release, The Avengers, but come next week the two may be flip-flopped. Snow White has made $137 million after four weeks, while the superhero saga should pass $600 million domestic by mid-week. Men in Black 3 continues to be an international juggernaut (nearly 72% of its total earnings are attributed to foreign receipts). Doing just enough to bump Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom out of the top 10, newcomer Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opened on 1600 screens and made $3.8 million. With an estimated per-screen average of $2,361, once the actuals are released on Monday, the end-of-the-world comedy could have the worst per-screen numbers of any film in the top ten.

Even though Moonrise Kingdom was knocked out of the top ten the film earned $3.4 million, its best-performing weekend yet. After five weeks it has made nearly $12 million despite playing on less than 400 screens overall. (When it opened at the end of May it premiered on only four screens.)

On the independent scene, Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love was the biggest release, which was to be expected after the success of Midnight in Paris. Playing on five screens, the picture had a $75.8k per-screen average and finished the weekend with $379k. Richard Linklater’s Bernie in its ninth weekend had a strong $485k showing and the film has made more than $6.6 million. FilmDistrict’s Safety Not Guaranteed made it past $1 million in its third week of release with a $482k take from 129 screens. IFC’s expansion of Your Sister’s Sister, from 13 to 47 theaters, gave it a 98% increase in viewership as it grossed $216k for a two week total of $379k.

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Source: Box Office Mojo