"Brave" and its red-tressed heroine Princess Merida had the box office all bowed-up this weekend, posting a $66.7 million debut.
"This is Pixar doing what Pixar does," Disney's executive vice-president of exhibition Dave Hollis told TheWrap Sunday. "They have created very high expectations and they've delivered." Audiences agreed, giving the movie an "A" CinemaScore.
It's the 13th consecutive No. 1 opening for Pixar, and marks the summer's second major box-office score for Disney with a film from an in-house studio partner. Marvel's superhero mashup "The Avengers" posted the biggest box-office bow in U.S. history in May and has gone on to make more than $1.4 billion worldwide.
"The similarity between the two is that they were both great movies," Hollis said.
"Brave" posted the second-best June opening for an animated film ever, behind only 2010's "Toy Story 3," which bowed to $103 million for Pixar in 2010.
Audiences skewed female at 57 percent and 55 percent were under 25 years of age. Families made up 66 percent of the crowds, couples 22 percent and teens 12 percent. Concerns that the female heroine would keep young males away vanished.
"Being brave and chasing your fate are themes that transcend gender and age," Hollis said. "The only way you get the kind of numbers we did is to resonate with families and adults, and Pixar can do that."
"Brave" blew away the competition. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," for two weeks running the No. 1 movie worldwide, finished a distant second with $20.2 million. The two other movies opening wide this week, Fox's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and Focus Features' "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," disappointed with $16.5 million and $3.8 million respectively.
"Brave" benefited from a massive rollout. It's 4,164 locations were the most ever for a Pixar film and 2,790 of those screens were 3D and delivered 34 percent of the receipts. The movie's per-screen average was $16,028.
The opening for "Brave" matches that of Pixar's last release, last summer's "Cars 2," which opened to $66 million and went on to make $191 million and $560 million worldwide. Disney would like to see numbers closer to those posted by "Toy Story 3," which grossed more than a billion dollars globally in 2010.
"Brave" opened in 10 overseas territories this weekend — about 17 percent of the foreign market — and took in another $13.5 million. The studio plans a staggered overseas rollout, in part to stay away from European soccer and other studios' animated offering.
Fox had to be disappointed in its $70-million genre-monster mashup "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The film, based on a New York Times best-seller by Seth Grahame-Smith, drew just a "C+" CinemaScore from audiences, and the weak word-of-mouth hurt as the grosses declined each day.
Action specialist Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") directed and produced along with Tim Burton, Jim Lemley and Broadway's Benjamin Walker ("Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"), who starred.
The studio could take some solace in the No. 4 showing of "Prometheus." Ridley Scott's R-rated sci-fi epic did $10 million over the weekend and has now made more than $108 million in the U.S. in three weeks.
Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" took in $8 million playing at 2,919 theaters, upping its U.S. overall gross to $137.1 million.
In its second week, Warner Bros.' "Rock of Ages" also brought in $8 million, from 3,470 screens, to raise its overall U.S. gross to $28.7 million.
Sony's "That's My Boy" took in $7.9 million from 3,030 locations this weekend, a 41% drop from its opening last week, raising its overall U.S. gross to $28.1 million.
The studio's "Men in Black 3" kept chugging, adding $5.6 million to up its overall U.S. gross to $163.3 million.
"Brave" carried a roughly $185 million production budget and tells the tale of Princess Merida who, determined to make her own way in the world, defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom and family. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
The voice cast features Kelly Macdonald as Merida, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson. Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman direct, with Katherine Sarafian producing and Pete Doctor, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton executive producing.
Four films open wide next week: Warner Bros.' stripper film "Magic Mike," the drama "People Like Us" from Buena Vista, Universal's teddy bear comedy "Ted" and "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" from Lionsgate.