Toy Story 3 Breaks Record, Stellar Debut for Despicable Me

Today, Toy Story 3 surpassed Finding Nemo as the top grossing domestic Pixar feature. However, as Box Office Mojo points out, “it will still rank in the bottom half in terms of estimated attendance.” In other words, an evening at the movies in the United States increasingly turns into an elitist activity for middle and upper-class audiences who can afford to pay inflated prices.

The big surprise at the box office was the stellar debut of Despicable Me which opened with an estimated $60.1 million. Even the most generous estimates pegged this in the $30-40 million range. Score one for producer-driven Katzenberg-style filmmaking. Looks like this won’t be the last we hear from Chris Meledandri and Illumination.


  • http://tresswygert.blogspot.com Tres Swygert

    You gotta admit though Amid that this film did a better job telling a story with comedy compared to Katzenberg’s. Some jokes I wouldn’t have imagined them pulling off, but I’m glad they did. They showed they could be unique between themselves, DreamWorks, and Pixar. I’m happy they got that kind of a response in the box office to be first, and to overtake Eclipse in the weekend.

    Happy to hear of the record for Toy Story 3, hopefully it’ll reach higher here in the States and beyond!

  • Chris Webb

    Universal has been marketing this movie since last Christmas.

    So after 7 months of those little minion guys, America’s curiosity was peaked.

  • Trevor

    Could you explain what you mean by “producer driven?” How was Despicable Me’s production run?

  • doop

    I wish I had enough fingers to count all of the ihop DM commercials I’ve seen this afternoon alone!

  • http://www.onanimation.com Daniel Caylor

    To Infinity and Beyond!

    No surprise about TS3. Congrats to the crew of DM. Animation is so popular right now. :P

  • JOe Micallef

    .

    But the whole economic model of film making is flawed. Why invest $2oo million on a flop? (i.e. the Last Airbender). Why not make several films at 2o million… and represent a broader demographic…. and charge less….

    Heck… I see students and other artists making great work on even tighter budgets. There are many films shown on cartoon brew that I would pay money for in a theater.

    Do we need to start a grass roots movement to push this… it would be fun…

    joe

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Re:
    –In other words, an evening at the movies in the United States increasingly turns into an elitist activity–

    For real. $22 for two 3D tickets, $10 nominal for concessions, $2 for gas, and $3 for parking in the daytime at one local theater. A $37 routine amusement?!? No way. That’s more than the monthly price of broadband!

  • office worker

    I’m not surprised at Despicable Me’s debut. Even the old ladies at the office were talking about how good it looked. It’s a miracle what good advertising will do for a movie.

  • http://MrFunsBlog Floyd Norman

    Animation is now a safer bet than live-action. A new age is dawning.

  • http://psychdrive.com Lenny Boudreau

    “elitist activity”

    I personally don’t mind spending ten bucks to sit in an air conditioned theater and be entertainment (or hope to be entertained) for an hour and a half to two hours. Today I spent $8.50 for my non-3D ticket to see Despicable Me.

    When I take the kids to play laser tag, it’s $10 each per game. We play two games in one hour. That’s $20 per kid per hour.

    Red Sox tickets last year set me back $150 for two. Weird Al tickets two weeks ago were $120 for two (after regular ticketing fees). Tix for Star Wars in Concert next week were $45 each after fees (the cheapest seats in the joint).

    Rock concert tix are through the roof. Over a hundred bucks a piece. That’s elitist.

    I don’t see $11 a ticket as elitist. I’m pretty happy with it.

    Now I know you can go hiking or swimming in the lake for cheaper, but I don’t know many activities for less than $11 per ticket.

  • erlab

    A new age is dawning. God I hope so! The more we see of animation, the more opportunities will arise in the years to come.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Re:
    –I don’t see $11 a ticket as elitist–

    I do. A blank DVD costs 18¢ and it holds two movies. A theater ticket price should be a happy medium… let’s say $2.50 because I suck at math and I resent all price increases that have happened since 1980.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    I second Trevor’s question.

    Actually, just a thought: maybe it doesn’t matter whether a production is “director-driver” or “producer-driven” if the end result is a good film that both parties can be happy with (for their own reasons).

    Good producers are necessary as well. If you want to know what an animation industry with good directors but almost no competent producers looks like, look at Russia…
    http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/35080.html

  • amid

    Trevor: “Producer driven” means when overall creative decisions about storytelling, casting, etc. are not made by the film’s director. If there’s any doubt about this, look at the film’s ads which promote Chris Meledandri’s name and not those of the directors—that was hardly coincidental.

    Lenny: Your comment perfectly illustrated my point. The other activities that you compared moviegoing to (concerts, sport tickets, laser tag) are reserved for the middle-to-upper classes. Hollywood since its earliest incarnations was an activity for the masses, and up until the ’70s, even those of modest means could afford to attend. Increasingly, today’s films (and especially those in 3D) are designed for a particular income class, and that’s unfortunate for the future health of the industry.

  • http://mytwoyenworth.blogspot.com/ Michael-Sensei

    A query for non USA TS3 viewers: I live in a small city by Japanese standards (Pop: over 1,000,000) but in EVERY cinema here, they are only showing a dubbed version. For me to see UP, I had to go to Tokyo.
    Are other non-English speaking countries facing this problem with animated features or is Japan unique? (What gets me is that Hanks, Allen, et al come here to promote the movie but then their voices aren’t used!)

  • jip

    How come?
    Doesn’t it mean people will only go see a movie if it’s REAL good?
    Seems to me it makes for a more healthy industry.

  • Marc Baker

    All I hope for is that ‘Twilight Eclipse’ gets hit hard by this. I’m still angry at society for making that awful garbage successful. While it’s nice to see animation doing well, i want to see 2D pencil animation return, but after Disney’s ‘disappointment’ with ‘The Princess & The Frog’s box office, 2D animation has an uphill battle since Hollywood sees it as ‘old hat’. Which is sad because not every animated movie has to be CGI. I also blame ‘hope, and change’ for sky rocketing ticket prices. Sorry if that sounded too political.

  • Gobo

    Nah, I disagree that this seems “producer-driven”. They absolutely promoted the producer’s name, or at least his credits, because they’re well-known movies. Would it make more sense for them to say “From the directors of “Sea Squad” and “No Time For Nuts”?

    I’d also point out that in the making-of featurette posted on Apple and Yahoo, the directors are front and center to promote their movie. Chris Meledandri is nowhere to be seen.

  • Mr. Crankypants

    Producer-driven? Oh, you mean like Walt Disney. :)

  • http://www.seithcg.com Seith

    Whoo-hoo!!! It didn’t bomb! Yay!!! :D

  • What?

    Who’s Chris Meledandri?

  • Nessor Sille

    Funny how this “actual tickets sold” thing was never brought up when Avatar and Alice were breaking similar records.

  • Steve Gattuso

    “Michael-Sensei says:
    Are other non-English speaking countries facing this problem with animated features or is Japan unique?”

    I suspect that it is worldwide. I’m in the US, but I had a discussion about this problem with a friend of mine in the Netherlands, who had the same trouble. And US audiences have that problem when international releases come here.

    I understand that the studios are trying to make a film more easily accessible to wide audiences, but I’ve never watched a dubbed version whose voice artists are able to bring out the same quality of character and emotion as the original cast. I may not understand what they are saying, but I know HOW they are saying it.

  • Steve Gattuso

    Oh, and Nessor? I’ve been paying attention to actual tickets sold for a while. I recognized how poor a metric B.O. was when I was told that if adjusted for inflation “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” would still be in the top 10.

  • Brad

    I understand that the studios are trying to make a film more easily accessible to wide audiences, but I’ve never watched a dubbed version whose voice artists are able to bring out the same quality of character and emotion as the original cast. I may not understand what they are saying, but I know HOW they are saying it.

    I was alone in my family in enjoying subtitled foreign films (usually French comedies). That was because I was the fastest reader.

  • Deaniac

    @ Marc Baker
    Funny you mention Eclipse. Despicable Me trumped Eclipse at the box office this Friday (with Eclipse in 4th place making $33.35 mil. and Despicable Me making $60.1 mil in 1st place). Unfortuntely, this puts Toy Story 3 in 4th place (making $22 mil), but it’s been out since 6/18 so that’s not a big deal, considering it has already broken Nemo’s record.

    A new animation reniassance…would be amazing. I want to see more hand-drawn animated films too, but this is a good start.

  • http://www.sexymecha.com Hal

    Iwatchstuff.com said it best: “Everyone realized the movie looked mediocre, but, when faced with ordering a ticket, few could resist the catharsis of saying such a self-deprecating title.”

  • Lauren

    Ha! Nice pic. Jerry give that to ya? I took it with my cell phone on my way home from work one day LOL! ^-^

  • Ryan G

    Michael-Sensei:

    I live in Korea, and it’s extremely hard to find an animated film released here that’s not dubbed, while most live action films can be easily found dubbed.

    TS3 has not been released here yet, and I can only hope to find out in a couple of weeks if I can see it in a theater or not.

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    Lauren – I’d like thank Lauren Sepanski for allowing us to use her photo to head this post. If you run an animation studio and need a P.A. – Hire her.

  • Trevor

    Amid: still not sure how you know how this production was run. Just because a producers name was billed in ad’s? Katzenberg’s name isn’t given top billing on his films.

    I don’t know, I hate to say it, but I would need a better source than advertisements for you to make that claim.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    I think the new higher ticket prices reflect a recognition by the studios that

    a) they were charging less than the market could bear previously and there’s no Oscar for “Lowest Ticket Price”.

    b) they need to return to the old model where theatrical distribution was the main source of return on a movie, because home video release is no longer returning the large amount it used to.

    c) everything is changing for the worse and they need to grab as much now as they can.

  • elan

    “I do. A blank DVD costs 18¢ and it holds two movies. A theater ticket price should be a happy medium… ”

    Uh…..WHAT? When you buy a movie on DVD, you arent paying for the materials, you’re paying for the content. By that logic, I should complain that my Broadway Show tickets are made of paper, which cost 1 cent.

    Are you really that delusional?

  • http://inconstruction Tony Claar

    “Despicable Me” was a sheer delight. It really was! It was created by French artists and it really shows; classy, witty, imaginative, fun, sweet, well-designed, non-calculating, and very, very pure-hearted. There is more sweetness, love, and charm in the story of the 3 little girls in this film, who steal the show, than in any film I’ve seen in a long time (the exception is “Up”). The transformation of a “heinous” villain into a loving parent is wonderful and a pleasurable surprise. Hurray for real competition, especially by truly competent, highly creative, warm-hearted artists and animators. Once again a new, super film from “elsewhere” shows that the Cal Arts/Pixar stranglehold on the animation industry is finally waning, will not last forever, and we are all the better for it. (it’s OK, kids, it’s not the end of the world for this to happen). Yes, we all love Pixar, I know, me, too. But let’s acknowledge great directors, animators and artists everywhere: they deserve it!

  • AaronSch

    “In other words, an evening at the movies in the United States increasingly turns into an elitist activity for middle and upper-class audiences who can afford to pay inflated prices.” -Amid

    Frankly Amid, that is an ignorant comment. As a writer you really should improve your vocabulary.

    By “elitist” do you mean people who’ve worked their asses off running small businesses, going to school, working one, two or three jobs just to improve their economic situation and provide the very best for their families?

    I’ve worked and volunteered at hospitals that serve lower income families. On a daily basis I cared for patients who chose to smoke, drink and/or do drugs. The average cost per pack of cigarettes is roughly $10. One pack a day equates to $3,650 a year, not to mention the health costs. Should we call them “elitist?” How ’bout those who choose to purchase booze or drugs? The cost for a 12-pack of Bud is roughly $10. A recent story that emerged from the state of California revealed that welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million at casino ATMs over eight months. Americans spend more than three times on gambling at casinos and lotteries than the combined amount they spend on box-office movies and theme parks.

    The fact is, people make choices. The $10 price of admission to the movies is hardly elitist. Intelligent people are making pragmatic economic choices. In the past, many of us would take the family to see a movie once, twice, maybe even three times or more. However, the release window on DVD and Blu-ray has become so short, we go to the theaters once and enjoy repeated viewings of our favorite films at home. There is nothing “elitist” about that.

  • Joe

    Oh, gee. Wow…

    One Step Forward, and Two Steps Back.

    Step forward (allegedly) for technology, and stepS back for social benefit.