Monday, June 20, 2016

"Finding Dory" Breaks Animated Box Office Records on Opening Weekend

Scene from Finding Dory
When it comes to Pixar, there are few films as beloved as Finding Nemo. It isn't just one person's opinion. The film holds a 99% on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes and the film grossed nearly $900 million in 2003, making it the highest grossing animated film at its time. By the looks of this past weekend, its sequel Finding Dory may prove to be a legitimate threat to any and all records that the original achieved 13 years ago. For starters, it broke the single best opening for an animated movie ever, as well as several others. Not too bad for a fish with short term memory loss. Read on to find out more.

While Pixar's name is usually associated with impressive track records in both critical and financial respects, last fall saw their first to fail on both fronts. The Good Dinosaur may have not been the biggest disaster, but it did hold the lowest opening for the studio since Toy Story, and it currently remains the lowest grossing film when adjusted for inflation. Its total run in America garnered $121 million and was almost exclusively shut out of last year's awards season in favor of the more acclaimed Inside Out. So, how badly did The Good Dinosaur do? Finding Dory's debut WEEKEND earned $136 million, which is $15 million more than the 2015 film did in its entire run, and that's just stateside. Talk about bad luck.

What's also impressive is that the film's opening gross is a 94% increase from Finding Nemo. This likely benefits from surcharges regarding both 3D and IMAX special showings. It opened on Thursday evening to $9.2 million, which when added to Friday's $45.7 million makes it $54.9 million and the highest opening day for an animated film period. It is contested however that if taken separately, Shrek the Third's one day opening of $47 million is actually higher. Ironically, Finding Dory beat out the same film for best per screen average for an animated film with $31,634 per screen on 4,305 screens. It also earned $50 million internationally and had the studio's best opening ever in China and Australia. 

The film is likely to get more acclaim and box office records as time goes on. The big question is if it could top the original's box office gross, which remains the studio's second-most successful film with ticket prices unadjusted behind Toy Story 3. While there's a compelling case to make for which Pixar films end up doing big business, the following is a look at the studio's best and worst openings (only for films opening in wide release) by focusing on the top five in each field. As you'll see, there's an interesting trend in both directions.


1. Finding Dory ($136 million)
2. Toy Story 3 ($110 million)
3. Inside Out ($90 million)
4. Monsters University ($82 million)
5. The Incredibles ($70 million)


1. Toy Story ($29 million)
2. The Good Dinosaur ($39 million)
3. Ratatouille ($47 million)
4. Cars ($60 million)
5. Monsters, Inc. ($62 million)

Admittedly, some of this information (all available on Box Office Mojo) is predicated on not adjusting for inflation. Still, it seems like no secret that once the studio became a big sensation (following Finding Nemo), every film stood a better chance of opening big. Even then, it's peculiar to see what films ended up topping the lowest grosses, including all three films that currently have sequels (two of which top the other list). But what exactly is topping the list? They're all exclusively films with fairly unanimous praise and have a sense of community surrounding them. Toy Story 3 was hailed for being the long awaited, and harrowing, sequel to the studio's most integral franchise. Inside Out was also hailed as the studio's best in years. With exception to Monsters University (Finding Dory is still pending as of publication), all have won Best Animated Film at the Oscars. Considering that Cars is supposed to be Pixar's version of the cynical cash cow, it's fascinating to see neither of the entries doing too hot on here (Cars 2 is 9th best opening overall).

Still, it's nice to see that after 21 years, Pixar still has the vitality and influence to open a movie big. The only question now is how many records Finding Dory is likely to break, and if any film regardless of studio will stand a chance of beating it. For now, let Pixar celebrate their victory and enjoy the fact that they still pack a punch. This may not be their best film, but it definitely connects with audiences in an impacting way. That's saying something after all of these years.

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