To infinity and beyond may not be a stretch for Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,”which sold $109 million in ticket sales in North America over the weekend and is on track to deliver a total domestic gross of over $400 million, analysts said.
“Toy Story 3” entered the marketplace as a strong No. 1 — the 11th Pixar title in a row to achieve that feat. The result was Pixar’s best opening ever, even when adjusting for inflation.
Sales were big enough almost to wipe out an early-summer slump at the multiplex. Total domestic box office revenue since early May is now only down by less than 1 percent from the same period last year, according to Hollywood.com, which complies ticketing statistics. In recent weeks revenue had dipped by over 6 percent, leading to hand wringing in Hollywood.
If history is any guide, “Toy Story 3” will continue to dominate in the weeks ahead. On average just 23 percent of the total domestic gross for a Pixar film comes from opening weekend, according to Hollywood.com.
“The audience was much broader than normal,” said Chuck Viane, the president for distribution at Walt Disney Studios, whose parent company owns Pixar. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie with such unbelievably positive word of mouth.” In limited release overseas “Toy Story 3” sold about $45 million.
Blissful reviews for the latest installment of the beloved “Toy Story” franchise may have helped persuade audiences to pay extra to see the film in 3-D. An outsize portion of sales, for example, came from the 180 Imax theaters playing the movie. Though only 2 percent of the cinemas showing the film were Imax, they still delivered 8 percent of the weekend gross.
Young adults, typically not a big audience for animated films, also played an important role. Disney said “Toy Story 3” drew 40 percent of its nonfamily audience from people ages 17 to 24: the group that grew up with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the other characters from the franchise.
“Toy Story 3,” directed by Lee Unkrich, becomes the third movie to open to more than $100 million at the domestic box office so far this year. All three have been movies made under the Disney umbrella. The other two are “Alice in Wonderland,” which sold over $116 million in its opening weekend, and “Iron Man 2,” which opened to over $128 million.
The challenge for Disney, which bought Pixar in 2006, is to avoid flops in between blockbusters that diminish the financial impact of its megahits. After “Iron Man 2” came“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” which should go down as one of the biggest failures of the year. The seesawing could continue: next up on Disney’s release slate is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” a live-action fantasy starring Nicolas Cage that strikes many veteran movie marketers as a tough sell.
For the weekend “The Karate Kid” from Sony Pictures Entertainment continued to prove itself an audience favorite, selling about $29 million for second place and a new total of $106.2 million, according to Hollywood.com
“The A-Team” from 20th Century Fox was third with about $13.8 million and a new total of $49.8 million, while the comedy “Get Him to the Greek” from Universal Pictures was fourth with $6.1 million ($47.9 million total).
“Shrek Forever After” (a DreamWorks Animation title distributed by Paramount Pictures) was fifth with $5.5 million, bringing its total to $223 million.