‘Cars 3’ Aims to Keep Disney’s Box Office Hot Streak Going

Tupac biopic “All Eyez On Me” and bachelorette comedy “Rough Night” also hit theaters this weekend

“Cars 3” will race into theaters this weekend, with independent trackers expecting it to break speed limits with an opening weekend between $56-66 million from 4,200+ screens.

The 3D computer-animated comedy marks the fifth of seven sequels to hit franchises that Pixar has had on its slate this decade, starting with “Toy Story 3” in 2010.

If “Cars 3” finishes with an opening on the higher end of expectations, it will keep on pace with its two predecessors. “Cars,” which released in 2006, posted an opening of $60 million — an amount Disney expects “Cars 3” will match — and grossed $462.2 million worldwide.

The 2011 sequel opened to a $66.1 million start and closed with a $562.1 million cume — but holds the dubious distinction of being the only Pixar film with a “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 39 percent. The good news for “Cars 3” is that it is faring better with critics so far, currently holding an RT score of 65 percent after early reviews.

Compared to other Pixar properties, “Cars” hasn’t been a heavyweight at the box office. The first film’s $244 million domestic cume ranks 10th among Pixar’s 17 films, and the global total for “Cars 2” is outgrossed by films like “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” and the sequels to the latter two films.

But “Cars” remains one of Disney’s most valuable franchises thanks to the successful licensing behemoth it has created. Five years after the series’ launch, “Cars” had made over $10 billion in merchandising revenue from products including toys, apparel, theme park rides, and a Walt Disney Animation spin-off franchise, “Planes.” With new characters Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez being heavily featured in the film’s promotional material, “Cars 3” should keep the money pouring in for Disney.

Directed by Brian Fee from a screenplay by Bob Peterson, Kiel Murray and Mike Rich, “Cars 3” follows Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in the twilight of his racing career as he is eclipsed by a new generation of racers led by high-tech rookie Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). After a crash puts his career in doubt, Lightning decides to make a comeback with the help of his racing team’s new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Fee is producing with Ben Queen, Eyal Powell and Jonathan E. Stewart.

Also releasing this week is Summit Entertainment’s “All Eyez On Me,” which stars Demetrius Shipp, Jr. in a biopic about the life of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur. Trackers have the film making between $17-22 million this weekend against a reported budget of $45 million. Music video director Benny Boom helms the film, with Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian writing. David Robinson, L.T. Hutton, and James G. Robinson are producers.

Columbia Pictures is also entering cinemas this weekend with “Rough Night,” a female-fronted comedy starring Scarlett Johansson as a bride-to-be at a bachelorette party that goes horribly wrong when a male stripper is accidentally killed, with Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz playing her old college buddies at the party.

Directed by Lucia Aniello, “Rough Night” is tracking for a $10-13 million opening this weekend, with Sony/Columbia anticipating an opening in the low teens. Sony is hoping for a high multiple over the coming weeks, something that past female-driven, R-Rated summer comedies like “Bridesmaids” have been able to achieve. Aniello also co-wrote the film with Paul W. Downs, with both producing alongside Matthew Tolmach and Dave Becky.