Pixar’s fourteenth animated feature film Monsters University and the Brad Pitt zombies flick World War Z each had a fantastic debut at the North American box office this weekend as the former lived up to expectations and the latter greatly exceeded them. The one-two punch of new product along with Superman’s second lap in the reboot Man of Steel helped propel the box office top ten to one of its highest-grossing weekends ever.
It has been nearly twelve years since Monsters, Inc. became one of Pixar Animation’s biggest hits. Despite the dozen years between then and Monsters University, the generation of kids who weren’t around for Mike and Sulley’s first big screen adventure have had plenty of opportunities to get to know them thanks to the first film’s non-stop exposure on home video, cable television and a 2012 theatrical reissue in 3D. Add to that the important demographic of teen and adult fans of the original, and Disney’s typical marketing assault, and Pixar’s perfect record of opening in first place remains intact.
Monsters University exceeded expectations of $75 million by earning an estimated $82 million from 4,004 screens, the second highest opening of all time for a Pixar release right behind the $110 million opening of Toy Story 3 back in 2010. The movie also opened in 35 foreign markets this weekend to earn a solid $54.5 million. Audiences gave the film an “A” rating on CinemaScore while critics voiced their approval via a 77% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 64/100 Metacritic rating. Monsters University should have no problem matching and perhaps even surpassing Monsters Inc.’s 2001 haul of $255 million despite Despicable Me 2 arriving July 3.
If any film had an aura of bad buzz around it heading into this summer, it was the Paramount zombie epic World War Z (sorry, After Earth). The production history was the working definition of the term “troubled,” so much so that Vanity Fair wrote a rather lengthy article on it a few months ago. Despite the issues associated with the loose adaptation of the Max Brooks’ novel, Paramount and the film’s star/producer Brad Pitt shouldered on to show that the film wasn’t the $200 million bomb everyone thought it was going to be. Touching down on 3,607 theaters Thursday night starting at 8pm, World War Z earned a great $66 million in its first three days. Critical notices were solid for the movie (67% RT approval, 62/100 Metacritic) while audiences gave it a “B+” rating on CinemaScore. The film’s debut is the highest of Pitt’s career, surpassing the $50.3 million that Mr. and Mrs. Smith earned in its first few days back in 2005. Pitt’s overseas appeal paid off for the film as well, earning a solid $45 million from 25 markets.
After setting a June record last weekend with a $129 million haul, Warner’s Man of Steel ran into some cinematic Kryptonite in the form of Monsters University and World War Z. The Superman movie fell 65% in its second round on 4,207 theaters to earn $41.2 million. After ten days, the Zack Snyder feature has earned a great $210 million. The $300 million mark is still a possibility since the large drop this weekend was due to upfront demand from fans and the arrival of two films aiming for the same audience as Steel. Word-of-mouth should help stabilize performance in the upcoming weeks.
While it didn’t have the biggest of openings last weekend, the Sony comedy This is the End showed great legs in its second weekend thanks to solid reviews and that all important word-of-mouth. The raunchy R-rated comedy landed in fourth place while losing only 37% of its opening weekend audience. In its second go around on 3,055 screens, End earned an estimated $13 million. To date, the $32 million comedy has earned $57.7 million and could make it to the $80 million mark by the end of its run.
Rounding out the top five in its fourth weekend was the early summer sleeper hit Now You See Me. The film had the second smallest drop in the top ten this weekend (-28%) to earn an estimated $7.8 million on 2,823 screens. After one month, the Summit and Lionsgate feature has earned a great $94 million and should wind down its run near the $115 million mark.
The remainder of the top ten is as follows:
6. Fast and Furious 6 (Universal) $4.7 million (-51%); $228.4 million
7. The Internship (Fox) $3.4 million (-52%); $38.3 million
8. The Purge (Universal) $3.4 million (-59%); $59.4 million
9. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) $3 million (-52%); $216.6 million
10. Iron Man 3 (Disney/Marvel) $2.1 million (-26%); $403.1 million
Next weekend the Channing Tatum/Jamie Foxx action thriller White House Down touches down alongside the comedy The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Both face an uphill battle in trying to dethrone Monsters University from the top.
– Shawn Fitzgerald