Pixar Animation’s streak of opening its films at the top of box office ended this Father’s Day weekend, but the $91 million debut of “Inside Out” still gave the company plenty to brag about.
The tale of what goes on in the mind an 11-year-old girl started in the top spot Friday but couldn’t keep up with “Jurassic World,” which rolled to its second straight win at the domestic box office with $102 million. That made “Inside Out” the first Pixar film to not open in first place after the previous 14 did. The streak began in 1995 with “Toy Story.”
But its debut was still the best ever for an original movie (over the $77 million put up by “Avatar” in 2009), the best for a film that didn’t win the weekend (over “Day After Tomorrow” which opened behind “Shrek 2” with $67 million in 2004) and the second-best opening ever for a Pixar release, behind the $110 million of “Toy Story 3” in 2010.
“All that and $91 million is quite a consolation prize,” Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution, told TheWrap Sunday.
“Of course we’d like to keep a record,” he said, “but it was more about delivering for fans of the Pixar and Disney brands. ‘Frozen’ didn’t open at No. 1 either, and it became the highest-grossing animated film ever, so we’re more than OK with this.”
So how did “Inside Out” beat pre-release projections by a whopping $25 million and nearly confound the analysts who had predicted it would be the runner-up?
Here are five reasons it over-performed:
HIGH CONCEPT: Writer-director Pete Docter‘s idea of examining the battles between the emotions in the mind of a young girl is a great idea, simple enough for kids and off-the-wall enough to intrigue parents and adults. Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness were voiced by Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black, nearly all well-known names that resonated with parents, too. When “Inside Out” beat “Jurassic World” with $34 million on Friday, fans helped spread the good word via social media, which drove the big numbers over the rest of the weekend.
QUALITY: The record for an original movie was particularly satisfying to Pixar, which has always prided itself on originality and great storytelling. “
MARKETING: Disney’s marketers did a great job, meeting the challenge of selling a kids film with a high concept and some sophisticated sensibilities. “It was the ability to attract both the youngest and the oldest moviegoers, without alienating either group, that enabled us to reach the heights that we did,” Hollis said.
That made a nice rebound for the marketing group that was maligned over Memorial Day weekend for its campaign for the disappointing George Clooney sci-fi film “Tomorrowland,” which many thought missed the mark.
HIGH PROFILE: There was no way the $175 million “Inside Out” was sneaking up on anyone, since it was the first Pixar film to hit the marketplace since “Monsters University” two years ago. Disney last year pushed the “The Good Dinosaur,” which was scheduled for summer 2014, to this November. Disney raised the ante on “Inside Out” and took that profile even higher by rolling out the film ahead of its U.S. debut at the Cannes Film Festival last month and the
They also held special screenings via Fathom Events at 660 selected U.S. theaters last Tuesday that featured Poehler and the filmmakers beamed in for a Q&A session and short documentary film about Pixar. The film drew high marks at each of those events, so the gamble paid off. “We only made about $600,000 on those special screenings,” Hollis said, “but we sent about 40,000 highly motivated ambassadors for the film out of there.”
NICE DATE: “Inside Out” was the first animated family movie of the summer and the first to hit theaters since DreamWorks Animation’s “Home” in March. And it will have had the family field largely to itself for three weeks when Universal rolls out “Minions” on July 10. That’s a better window by a week than “Monsters University” had when “Despicable Me” followed it in 2013, and that one still rolled to $743 million at the global box office in 2013. The extended window will also help it draw adults over 35, who were the second-largest demo group behind kids under 12. “They don’t rush out, but they’ll get there for this one, given the word of mouth,” Hollis said.