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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Could Pixar's 'Wall-e' be headed for a record opening weekend?

While the box office trend for Pixar releases since 2004's hit The Incredibles has been a downward one (Incredibles took in $261.4 million, 2006's Cars grossed $244 million and last summer's Ratatouille earned $206.4 million domestic), Disney/Pixar seems poised to reverse the tide in a few days when their latest creation Wall-e finally hits theaters.

Buoyed by a massive marketing blitz, excellent early buzz (despite the fact that Disney has embargoed all reviews until the day of release) and a release date that's basically been cleared out for it (only the R-rated Wanted shares the weekend), Wall-e could very well open bigger than any Pixar film to date.

However, good reviews don't necessarily mean big openings. Just take a look at last year's critically-acclaimed Ratatouille. Though the Brad Bird-directed pic received the best reviews of the entire summer, a tough release date (sharing a weekend with Die Hard 4, followed by Transformers and The Bourne Ultimatum) and sub-par marketing campaign doomed the film a rather ordinary $47 million opening and $206 million total in North America, both the lowest totals for a Pixar release since 1998's A Bug's Life.

Based on recent history Disney will likely release Wall-e in roughly 4,000 theaters nationwide -- official numbers will be announced Thursday. And given the high per theater averages Pixar films usually command that could put Wall-e in the $75-85 million opening weekend range, which would be a Pixar record. The biggest debut in Pixar history is still 2004's The Incredibles with $70.4 million, followed closely by Pixar's all-time leading grosser Finding Nemo with $70.2 million (Nemo went on to rake in $339.7m domestic and $864.6m worldwide).

Looking at what some of our readers have submitted in our latest poll, it looks like predictions are all over the map. Feel like taking an educated guess yourself? Chime in in the comment section, or enter your guess in our poll. But here are some interesting numbers to chew on:

Averages for Pixar releases since 1999's Toy Story 2 (numbers not adjusted for inflation)
Films included in average: Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille

Theater Count: 3,618
Average: $17,137
Opening weekend: $61,305,088
Domestic Gross: $258,901,689
International Gross: $339,406,529
Worldwide Gross: $598,308,218

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