July 5, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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With a summer movie season bracketed by the first weekend in May on one end, and Labor Day on the other, we’ve reached the midpoint of 2011’s array of blockbusters, and for the next week, here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we’ll be providing our judgments on how the studios are doing.  US Grosses are as of July 4, 2011; Overseas Grosses are as of July 3,2011.
Today;  The Mouse House

US Release:  May 20
US Gross:  $234,200,000
Overseas Gross:  $774,000,000
Worldwide Total:  $1,008,000,000
US Release:  June 24
US Gross:  $123,002,000

Overseas Gross:  $82,200,000 

Worldwide Total: $205,202,000
You can’t argue with a billion dollars; Pirates 4 is the 8th biggest worldwide moneymaker of all time, and it could catch up to Pirates 2 in 4th place, just $58M ahead.  That would leave it behind only Avatar, Titanic and the last Lord of the Rings on the all-time list.  These massive numbers disguise the fact that Pirates 4 has the lowest US boxoffice total of the Top 19 worldwide–amazingly, only 23 cents of every dollar it’s earned has come from the US, and it’s by far the least successful of its franchise in the domestic market.  A dollar is a dollar, even if it has to be converted to get there, and Disney will take the money wherever it’s earned.  Since future installments of the series will certainly be coming (at least as long as Johnny Depp wants to don that eyeliner), it’ll be interesting to see if Disney tries to boost the US popularity of the series through casting and locations, or whether Pirates embraces its foreign identity and treats the US as a large but not crucially important territory.
The news is less ambiguous for Cars 2  Domestically, it’s headed for the 2d lowest Pixar gross ever, and it’s dented the Pixar brand critically (see below).  The international view is a little incomplete ($82 million is a good first weekend in a limited number of territories and we expect this number to jump substantially next week).  We have a ballpark estimate of $275 million total overseas, assuming an international multiple similar to recent Pixar releases over a domestic total as measured by the ShowBuzzDaily Domestic Final estimate.  As with many high profile Hollywood movies, the international gusher of money can mitigate weakness on the homefront.
In 2 words:  Not Good.  
Pirates 4 was perhaps less disastrous than its immediate predecessor, but it’s a dull and unexciting adventure that feels like it was made with everyone’s eye on their paychecks.  Those paychecks have plenty of zeroes, so it’s not clear if anyone cares, but it’d be nice to think that the slack writing, acting and direction will eventually catch up with the series.  
Cars 2 isn’t just the worst Pixar movie to date, it’s the first bad Pixar movie ever, lazily plotted and mostly unfunny.  The bulletproof reputation that kept Pixar on a pedestal above DreamWorks and any other animation pretenders has been breached, and the next Pixar movie (the medieval Scottish adventure Brave in June 2012) will be scrutinized–by audience and critics–with a skeptical eye that the studio has never experienced before.  The Disney policy of encouraging sequels and franchises (discussed in this NY Times article) may have to be balanced against the value of the studio’s most prestigious and profitable brand.
WINNIE THE POOH – July 15:  Pure counterprogramming to the Harry Potter avalanche that day, aimed at kids too young for the increasing darkness at Hogwarts.  Modestly budgeted and marketed.
THE HELP – August 12:  Notable as the first “serious” release from Disney’s new DreamWorks division (I Am Number Four was its first nonserious release).  It’s too early to discuss The Help in any depth, but it’s a worthy movie with a great cast, based on a bestseller, that seems a bit out of place in its mid-August slot; normally a picture like this, hoping to get some awards attention for the actresses at least, would be opening a month or so later.
FRIGHT NIGHT – August 19:  More DreamWorks, this one a low-budget horror comedy that’ll be hoping to make a few bucks before summer ends.  The trailer looks promising, but it opens against the new Conan the Barbarian, and the following week it has to face the latest Final Destination kill-fest, so it runs the risk of being squeezed out.  

THE MONEY:  B.  A summer whose only major releases are shaky entries in preexisting franchises, with the other titles (the first of the company’s new regime under Rich Ross) as virtual throwaways, builds nothing for the future–and the mismanagement of the Pixar brand is worrisome.    

THE QUALITY:  C+.  Two mediocre movies don’t make for a good season, and “Won’t Make You Actively Suffer!” isn’t much of a summer slogan.

Click HERE to read the other studio report cards.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."