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'Toy Story 3' appears blessed, 'Jonah Hex' cursed

Pixar's 3-D sequel could provide its first $100-million-plus weekend. But the Warner Bros. comic book adaptation looks like a costly misfire.

June 18, 2010|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

The soft summer box office is poised to get a big boost from "Toy Story 3" this weekend.

People who have seen pre-release surveys say that "Toy Story 3" is certain to have the biggest opening for a movie from Pixar Animation Studios, beating 2004's "The Incredibles," which started with $70.4 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Thanks to strong interest among all audience segments, as well as 3-D premium ticket prices, the movie could provide Pixar's first $100-million-plus opening if pre-release tracking is on target.

The sequel is likely to draw not only the family crowd for animated pictures but also young adults who are nostalgic for the 1995 original and 1999's "Toy Story 2," which grossed even more than its predecessor.

If it follows the pattern of previous Pixar movies, this weekend will be the start of a long summer run for "Toy Story 3" in theaters. On average, pictures from the Disney-owned animation studio gross more than four times their opening weekend ticket sales — an exceptionally high multiple, in Hollywood vernacular.

For most movies, a multiple of 2.5 is typical. However, Pixar movies often attract families on weekdays and repeat viewers, and they also generate strong word of mouth, all of which make for a long life at the box office.

"Toy Story 3" is only the second sequel produced by Pixar and the first in more than a decade, though the studio now appears to have a case of Hollywoodum sequelitus. The movie has a good shot at ultimately raking in more than $340 million, which would surpass 2003's "Finding Nemo," Pixar's No. 1 film domestically.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' "Jonah Hex" looks cursed. The big-screen adaptation of the DC Comics series starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox is not tracking well with audiences and will struggle to collect $10 million in its debut this weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release surveys. That's a poor start for a summer release.

Despite extensive reshoots, executives at Warner Bros. and its co-financing partner Legendary Pictures are privately acknowledging little faith in the prospects of the movie, which cost $47 million to produce.

A "Jonah Hex" bomb would be a rare misfire for a movie based on a comic book. However, "Jonah Hex" is an unusual adaptation in that, instead of featuring a costumed superhero, it's a western outlaw tale.

If "Toy Story 3" is the hit everyone thinks it will be, Hollywood would have its second consecutive weekend of positive results after a sluggish start since early May.

Last weekend's surprise hit, "The Karate Kid," which opened to $55.7 million, could fall less than 50% and finish in second place. Weekday ticket sales have been strong for the remake starring Jaden Smith.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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