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Box Office ReportPixar

‘Cars 3’ Has Weakest Debut In Pixar Franchise – But It’s Still A Big Winner For Disney

Disney-Pixar’s Cars 3 launched in the United States this weekend with an estimated $53.5 million, enough for first place at the box office, but weaker than the first two films in the series (Cars earned $60.1M in 2006, Cars 2 earned $66.1M in 2011).

The film is Pixar’s second-weakest summer launch of all-time, beating only Ratatouille, which opened with $47M in 2007. But the reality is that even if Cars 3 had made $10 million more, it would have made little difference to the Disney Company’s bottom line. That’s because the Cars sequels are designed to be commercials that refresh the franchise and keep it relevant for the studio’s other operating segments, notably consumer products and theme parks.

Disney-themed products generated $56.6 billion in retail sales in 2016, more than any other corporation in the world, and Cars licensing plays a role in those numbers. While specific figures aren’t known, the John Lasseter-created franchise generated over $10 billion in retail sales in its first five years alone. Add to that, the Disney Company opened Cars Land in 2012 at California Adventure, a theme park that draws over 9 million visitors per year, and it becomes easier to understand why the box office figures of Cars 3 are less important than the simple fact that the studio produced a Cars 3.

This past weekend, Disney also released Cars 3 in a couple dozen international territories, picking up an additional $21.3M. In all, Cars 3 has earned $74.8M to date.

In its third weekend, Dreamworks Animation’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie dipped from third to eighth place, pulling an estimated $7.4M. The film has grossed $58M to date — which, while lower than many of the company’s recent films, could end up being more profitable due to its new affordably outsourced production pipeline. The film has opened in just a handful of international territories, with $4.7M from those dates.

Illumination’s Despicable Me 3, still a couple weeks away from its domestic launch, debuted in five international territories this weekend with $10M, including a no. 1 launch in Australia.

After twelve weekends, The Boss Baby is nearing the end of its domestic run. The film added an estimated $315,000 this weekend, lifting the domestic total to $172.5M. With $318.3M from abroad, Boss Baby has raised an unexpectedly large sum of $490.8M, assuring itself a sequel and surpassing the $484.4M of the first Shrek in 2001. It’s now within striking distance of the $494.9M franchise launch of How to Train Your Dragon in 2010, and should it reach that landmark, it will become Dreamworks’ fourth-highest-grossing franchise debut, behind just Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and The Croods.

  • Fluffydips

    I don’t get the hate for the Cars movies sometimes. I liked the first two and I’m interested in the third. They’re little enjoyable road trip movies, which I think Pixar has the right to fall back in to inbetween their masterpieces.

    • Cars 1 came out back when there was the big El-Dorado search–no disaster-spinning Dreamworks/Katzenberg-employee pun intended–for the mythical “Pixar’s First Flop”. They’d been on a roll with Nemo and Incredibles, they could do no wrong, and it was too frustrating to last.
      Disney bragged that Cars 1 would “outperform Nemo” in its first week, it didn’t (nothing could), and entertainment news burst into wishful thinking: “Cars flops on opening! Is Pixar finally dead??” Obviously not, but good, believing fans thought so, and tried to come up with “reasons” why box-office news was always right, and the studio had obviously had it coming. (“Uh, yeah, -told- you cars with windshield-eyes was stupid!”)

      And then, of course, Cars 2…Which also started the whole “All they do is sequels!” whines, even for the ones that’d come from the old Circle 7 scripts, which Cars 2 hadn’t.
      So burning were the rage issues that even ToonStudio’s two Planes movies, which weren’t so bad–Planes: Fire & Rescue was actually pretty darn good–were violently lynch-mobbed just for -reminding- us of the Cars movies and probably secretly putting money in Cars 2’s pocket.
      Yep, the wounds ran DEEP.

  • Inkan1969

    I noticed that the ads for “Cars 3” had a very different tone from a standard big budget cartoon movie. The ads played the premise very straight and downbeat. Like whatever damage McQueen gets in a wreck is meant to be taken seriously. I was hoping then that the makers took a fresh new approach to the franchise. But the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes were weaker than I expected.

    • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

      Don’t tell me you determine how good a film is by looking at Rotten Tomatoes. One of my favorite films of all time is Every Which Way But Loose and that has a really low score.

  • JT

    Wait, so Cars 3 earned $21 Million overseas?
    Transformers, Warcraft etc routinely open to $100-$150 million in China alone; so how is this not a bust?

    • gonk

      It hasn’t opened in a lot of countries yet. It’s a least mid July for quite a few of them

    • Doconnor

      Because Cars 3 hasn’t opened in China or other major overseas markets, yet.

    • Fried

      Because the box office numbers are irrelevant to its toy sale numbers. It’s pointed out in the article that Cars and Disney merch make a killing in sales.

    • Andres Molina

      $21 million overseas in smaller territories. According to Deadline, the overseas box office is tracking ahead Cars 2 and Brave, but slightly behind Monsters University. Its hasn’t open in lager territories like China or Japan yet. So total worldwide gross might total between $520-680 million, which itself is really impressive, and should not be seen as Pixar entering fatigue palooza. Besides $53 million opening weekend is nothing to scoff at, especially considering the film’s Cinemascore grade of an excellent “A” for audiences. As long as it makes over $500 worldwide, you should have nothin got worry about

      Here’s the link for the tracking.

  • Jeff LaFlamme

    A Pixar friend recently informed me that after Star Wars, Cars was the next top grossing merchandising bonanza ever (in billions of $$$).

  • Andres Molina

    I saw the film just 2 days ago, I think Cars 3 is far better than what critics say. It’s personally a 9/10 for me, a great film on par with the original, which I believe is severely underrated. But again, its simply my own opinion. I think critics have their minds twisted over this film. A good amount of the critics who saw the film said it was the best film of the trilogy, yet the rotten tomatoes score is somehow lower than the original. Based on an article I read, the score on rotten tomatoes is not the definitive indicator of a film’s quality, its pretty much subjective. Thats all.

    • Thalesourus

      Rotten Tomatoes is a rotten way to review films. Find a critic who has similar taste to you and go on that.

  • Cars 3 was what is referred to in mainstream movies as an “Apology Sequel”. (Remember Jurassic Park III?–Yeah, one of those.)
    The big issue with Cars 3’s opening was literally whether audiences would ACCEPT Pixar’s conscious apology for Cars 2, as the wounds run pretty deep. Most of the fan Cars 2 traumas don’t just seem to be about the annoying overabundance of Mater, but about the fact that it was the movie that broke Pixar’s Best-Picture nomination run for Up and Toy Story 3, and gave us, gasp, a movie that -wasn’t- good enough to be good, let alone Best Picture!
    And a -sequel- at that….You lied to us, John! You BETRAYED us! We thought you were going to be different from all those other studios!

    Okay, it’s been six years, have we all gotten over our “betrayal issues” yet?…Evidently not. (We’re still trying to get over our Jar-Jar issues of wanting to kill Mater with a crowbar.)
    Now with two slump June weeks ahead, we have to see whether word-of-mouth can convince people to actually go see Cars 3 in their spare moviegoing time, and its serious attempt to redo the first film, for itself.
    Come for the Lightning/racetrack plot back again, stay for the huggy retirement finale.

    • otterhead

      My young nephew is a huge Cars fan, sleeps on Lightning McQueen sheets, and loves the Cars characters as much as any classic Disney character. CARS 2 scared the crap out of him. He demanded to leave the theater when bullets started flying, saying “That’s not Lightning and Mater.” I think he has a right to feel betrayed.

    • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

      I didn’t need an apology for Cars 2, as I actually think it’s a good movie despite popular belief. I loved Mater in that movie and he’s my favorite character.

      • Barrett

        I thought Cars 2 was a fun spy spoof, but it definitely felt like something more suited to a “direct to video” film that would be watched mainly by fans of the original/franchise. I also don’t blame small children for being a bit freaked at the spy action violence. It wasn’t at all intense for me, but for a 5 year old used to the more gentle, almost pastoral world of the original Cars?

  • Josh Evans

    I miss the old Pixar.

  • otterhead

    I read several terrible reviews of “Cars 3” that inevitably mentioned somewhere in their review that they loathe NASCAR, car culture, and Larry the Cable Guy. I’m no defender of the Cars films, but I feel like a lot of reviewers expect to hate it before even viewing it.

    • Barrett

      I like classic car culture, but dislike Nascar and “redneck humor” and culture in general. I’ve found the Cars movies to be entertaining, but largely forgettable save for a few moments and the “Doc Hudson” story arc. But they aren’t garbage, and they’re certainly more interesting and engaging than Lucas’ SW prequels, if we want to compare “faded glory” franchises/studios.

  • ea

    I predict that out of Cars 3 and Coco, the Academy will nominate the Pixar movie that has the better reviews (even if it’s still mediocre) and that one will win by default. The other nominees may likely be Captain Underpants, Ferdinand and two token non-anime foreign films.

    • Netko

      No way they’d take Cars 3 when there’s Coco. Even for their standards taking a third instalment in a money-grabbing franchise like Cars is a bit much, especially when there’s a non-sequel they can take that won’t sound so bad in theory.

  • Andres Molina

    I remember hearing someone say that they miss “Old Pixar”. “Old Pixar” as in the “hyper-inventive, super-witty, wacky, imaginative, mindbending, dizzying, heart-crushing comedy-adventure that has a plot that’s complex like a pocket-watch”? God, can’t they relax and do some fun sequels, or something that isn’t wacky or heart crushing? There’s nothing wrong about pixar doing a simple film that isn’t necessarily masterful. Most moviegoers practically expect, no, obligate Pixar to make one kind of movie. For most people, they must be both masterful and kid friendly, so practically if Pixar really has “gone downhill” or no longer “old Pixar”, then their “undoing” is their audience, because they have pretty much limit Pixar to make a specific kind of movie, and if they don’t follow that order, then here comes the rants and the hate. Accept Pixar’s current state and let them do what they want, and just let them “heal on their own”, because i’m sure they will return to new ideas, because the last thing they need is someone to tell them what a “proper Pixar film” should be, because that will only make them more anxious and nervous to make anything new, which will cause them to repeat themselves and enter fatigue, making the audience even more unhappy, the cycle goes on.

    • People try to define what was “Old Pixar” before the Circle 7 sequels (look, it’s Cartoon Brew, can someone ELSE explain the whole tragic Eisner vs. Pixar Wars history from the inside? I feel embarrassed doing it as an outsider fan!), apparently meaning Toy Story 2–And then, when cornered, they say “Well, a movie that -doesn’t- keep trying to make you cry buckets!”
      Oh, then, you mean, “A Bug’s Life”, that gets unfairly overlooked and fan-snubbed for being just cute world-gags, before Toy Story 2 got all the adults weeping over Jessie?

      Basically, what people mean is :
      A) Before the Circle 7 Legal-Authorship Trilogy of TS3, Monsters U and Dory, which made it look like “All they do is sequels now!”
      B) Back when they were “supposed” to be nominated for Best Picture every year, ie. the Up and TS3 days before Cars 2, Brave, and Good Dino.
      Those tend to be the people who wanted the entire Pixar studio to “prove” something to the industry, about why the makers of all the -other- cheap blockbuster movies should just lay down and die already–And who again, think Cars 2, along with the other sequels, was some backroom deal to “tempt” Pixar into becoming Just One of the Hollywood Boys, and throwing the same crap at us as the others.

      It tends to overlook the reason why Pixar DOES make good movies, in that they don’t like a story unless it creates some emotional resonance with the characters, which causes us to, yes, get a bit misty-eyed over them. While all the other CGI studios try to ape sitcom gags hoping for the mythical “Adult audiences laughing at the jokes with their kids”, because the other studios don’t know from personal experience why adults would watch them either…And the inexperience shows.
      As for “Why doesn’t Pixar give us anything we can nominate for Picture anymore?”, ISTR Inside Out being -the- front-runner Picture favorite for Oscar ’15 from the week it opened…But because the Oscar race is now all about watching whatever the Golden Globes does, and the Globes couldn’t nominate an animated for Picture, when Inside Out didn’t show up for Best Musical/Comedy, oh, well, guess that was that, then. :(

      • Renard N. Bansale

        The Golden Globes discontinued allowing animated films in their two main Best Picture categories since starting the Best Animated Feature category.

        • While part of the Oscars’ ten-nomination rule was a change in the voting that -could- allow voters to nominate one animated for Picture, and the Pixar fans who wanted to avenge Wall-E quickly made up for it with Up and TS3’s nominations.
          The Oscar committee talked about retiring the rule in ’14, after the lowest-rated ceremony in history, but after spring ’15, suddenly did a turnaround and announced they were keeping the multi-nomination rule in place for one more year.
          Just in case, y’know, there might have been ONE animated movie in ’15 that most of the voters wanted to nominate for Picture…Y’know, just on the off-chance. The idea didn’t suddenly occur to them until May. :)

          But, then the Globes came out, and if the HFPA jumps off the roof, the Academy has to, too.

    • KW

      Its a little disturbing how you keep talking about Pixar as if Pixar is a person with feelings and anxieties about whether they can live up to expectations of an original story. Pixar is not a person, it doesn’t have feelings, so the argument that having expectations of Pixar is actively making them not want to make an original film is ludicrous. If anything Pixar is fully at the whims of a soulless corporation that may talk about meaningful stories that you can share with the family, but in reality that’s just a marketing ploy. It doesn’t care about any of those things. Pixar the business (remember its not a person) only exists to make money.
      While it has always been a business and needs to make money to keep people employed, its doing it with less and less soul with every sequel that happens.

      • Andres Molina

        First of all, I’m not referring to Pixar as a person, it is just a simplification. Pixar is a group of people, I know that, notice how I used the word “they” and “them” meaning I referred Pixar as more than one, more than one person, didn’t called it “it”. Second, I sure SOME of the folks at Pixar do care about good stories, if the studio only make movies to make money, than why bother making them good in the first place? And saying the belief of expectations effecting Pixar is ludicrous? I’m not so sure about that. Chances are, if you look closely, you’ll more than likely find critics vilifying the studio for not being up to standards, and there are those in the internet who demand Pixar “does this” or “do that” or sometimes go a couple petty rounds of “the studio betrayed me” or “Pixar is doomed for eternity”, or “Pixar has lost it”. I’m not crazy, trust me, there really are people who say these kinds of things, you just have to search closely, and I don’t think the folks at Pixar are a bunch of close-minded hermits, chances are, some folks, or someone at the studio knows, or is aware of the comments and what those people say.

        • Netko

          Pixar HAS lost it. How many more failures do they need to put out for people like you to accept it? You’re acting like saying so is a taboo or a conspiracy instead of a simple sad state of a once great studio, stomped into submission by Disney. Audiences are paying (less and less now) to see their features because they expect something great, because this company has made a name for itself with a series of amazing features, not uninspired mess like the Good Dinosaurs or a bunch of sequels. It’s not up to the consumers to pretend like these companies are doing their job well when they aren’t and especially not because some random employee’s feelings might get hurt. Do you think I care about the feelings of a cook I don’t even know in an excellent restaurant if he brings me a horribly made meal? No, I am going to complain and stop going there because they clearly can’t do their job well anymore. And if we’re talking about not getting someone’s feelings hurt, what about the feelings of thousands of disappointed audience members who expect better from Pixar? Animation at this level is a business with hundreds of millions of dollars in it, not someone’s little art project. Pixar’s and Disney’s executives and employees are not my or the audiences’ friends and no-one owes them a thing just because they made a movie. I can’t think of one single reason why I or anyone else should walk on eggshells and avoid stating the obvious just because somewhere out there a Pixar employee might be watching and they might get sad because the movie they worked on was called bad and people like you think this counts as a personal attack.

        • KW

          Pixar is NOT a group of people. Pixar is a studio in the business of making movies to make money. Groups of people work at Pixar, but groups of people are not Pixar. You also seem to be confusing expectations with demands.

          No ones demanding that Pixar makes a good movie, people are just expecting Pixar to make a good original film because that’s why everyone liked them in the first place. They themselves had adopted a “no sequels” stance to an extent on films. They said they wouldn’t make a sequel unless it made sense. Toy Story 3 (despite how good it was), Cars 2, Cars 3, Monsters University…good or bad they were necessary.
          And why do you mean why bother making good movies if they’re only in it for money? If the movies they made weren’t any good people would eventually stop going to see them. Look at what happened to Disney in the 80’s and again in the early 2000’s. They were making bad movies so people stopped going. Then when they couldnt compete with Pixar, instead of trying to “git gud” they bought them instead.

          Sorry to burst your bubble but animation on this scale is a business. Animation is not like a DVD Making of Special Feature. It exists to make lots and lots of money, and it succeeds at that. And yes there are thousands of artists working on this that care about what they do and put everything they can into it, but the executives, the ones making the decisions dont care about that. They just want to see large profits.

      • Netko

        Yeah, this anthropomorphism of companies is really common in the animation community. I blame all the “Disney magic” marketing. It’s especially weird when people have this loyalty towards a company that isn’t even composed of the same people that made the movies which made them love the company in the first place, and are clearly not capable or dedicated to making better movies.

        • KW

          Nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

        • Barrett

          Hardly unique to animation. Consider sports team loyalty – as Seinfeld put it, after enough years, the players are an entirely different group of people, so you’re essentially “rooting for laundry” if you insist in cheering for the same team decade after decade.
          Pixar has had a lot of changeover since the late 90s/early 2000s. It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. Even in the golden age of Disney, great artists came and went. The films were also hardly as uniform or formulaic as people “remember.” Comparing “Snow White” to “Bambi” to “Lady& the Tramp” to “Sleeping Beauty” etc. gets you a bunch of very different films with varying artistic aesthetics. Pixar’s problems aren’t due to “too many sequels” or “not enough consistency” (which when you think about it, are almost opposite to one another.) It’s simple a matter of the strength of the storytelling and character development. There certainly isn’t any weakness on the visual side, save perhaps for the lackluster character designs in The Good DInosaur.

    • Fried

      Pixar is not doing sequels because they’re simple and fun, they’re doing them because a lot of the core crew have changed or been switched over to Disney that it’s almost a different Think Tank entirely. There’s a reason why something like the Good Dinosaur and Brave went through development hell while the old crew was able to make something like WALL-E which didn’t even have dialogue for the first 30 minutes work. There’s a reason why Coco has been in development for so long.

      Pete Doctor is probably one of the few core people left behind which is why Inside Out feels seamless with Pixar’s earlier work. Dory, Cars, Monsters (Even though I enjoyed MU) was definitely made for business purposes and because someone there does not seem to trust their younger artists to pitch or direct new ideas. It was not made out of passion or as a means to take a break.

      Whereas before, Pixar was a company started out of risk and took a chance with stories, now they’re under high scrutiny and despite their original films being so successful because of a lunch meet, now it seems like no one wants to give anyone at Pixar a chance unless they have amazing credentials or are one of the original founders. It’s a shame because there are hundreds and hundreds of artists on staff there. To think not one of them is capable of creating the next Toy Story is insane.

      • Cars 3 and Toy Story 4 have Bob Iger’s corporate meddling all over them (eg. announcing TS4 during the big Anniversary hype, even if he had no clue what they’d do for a story)–But Finding Dory, Toy Story 3 and Monsters University date back to Pixar “inheriting” competing projects from the Eisner-Disney era, and having to produce them as original scripts for the sake of authorship.
        I’m not sure if it was an expiring-rights issue that caused Pixar to produce all the “inherited” sequel projects all at once, but it certainly got them off the table, to pave the way for the new projects they -wanted- to do. Of which Coco was one, and Good Dino at least….started out as one.

        Seriously, if no one here knows the sad history of Circle 7 Studios, the “fake” Pixar sequels, and Michael Eisner’s “war” with Pixar, it’s not my job to explain it–Hey, Jerry Beck, wanna take over here?

        • Fried

          None of that negates what I said, though. Circle 7 was made out of business decision and therefore, all of their sequel projects were, too. Much like Disney having a separate group of people who did their DTV sequels and there being another group doing Planes.

          Whereas Pixar’s original films were brainstormed by a group who were trying to come up with creative pitches, Dory, Monsters, and Toys were specifically picked out of which of Pixar’s movies were the most profitable at the time. Just because they were produced by a more competent crew who were so good, they turned Toy Story 2 from a DTV sequel to a theatrical release doesn’t matter. I don’t think anyone at the studio would have made those movies if they were not told to.

          • Pixar gushing over their TS4 plot–“It’s going to be such a rich exploration of Woody’s relationship with Bo Peep!” tends to be over their enthusiasm for the original story they -ended up- brainstorming to fit Iger’s memo, to the point that we confuse it with the notion that they WANTED to make the movie.
            Circle 7 troubles aside, Pixar’s story department is often in the business of making lemonade out of Marketing’s lemons, and Cars 3–which Iger just -felt- like announcing around the same time as Disneyland’s area opened–was one example.

            Dreamworks liked sausage-grinding name-franchise sequels because they thought keeping a house brand was all, but for Pixar, a sequel we “think” we would be able to imagine on the way in seems to be the last thing the story department always wants.
            Yeah, “Lightning crashes and retires” just -wasn’t- what we were expecting from that first teaser, was it? I don’t think it was what Bob was envisioning either, not that he was putting much detailed thought into it at the time.

  • Elsi Pote

    Is it me or does it feel like there are way too many devil advocates on the Pixar’s case.

    For me is simple capitalism: you buy your competitor, take any of their IPs or know how and let them die a peaceful death.

    • KW

      Disney running your IP’s into the ground until they’re just a bloody stump is hardly a peaceful death.

  • KW

    So this is what happens when the soul of a studio dies. Your films become marketing strategies for other sectors of your business.

    • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

      John Lasseter is actually really passionate about the Cars franchise, it’s just that Disney takes advantage of that.