‘World War Z’ Zombies Begin Global Battle With ‘Man Of Steel’; But Pixar’s ‘Monsters University’ Should Open Huge #1 Domestic

By NIKKI FINKE, Editor in Chief June 21, 2013

FRIDAY 11 AM, 2ND UPDATE: Disney/Pixar’s 3D toon prequel Monsters University opened with a solid $2.6M for Thursday’s late shows starting at 8 PM. “For a family film, we think we’re off to a really great start,” the studio tells me. This weekend Monsters University is opening in 35 territories, though only 6 are key markets (Germany, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Brazil). Also last night, at the same time that Paramount’s World War Z co-financed with Skydance Productions was benefiting from airing 2 spots during the Miami-San Antonio NBA final to promote today’s official opening, it grossed $3.6M in 2,600 screens for 8 PM previews and midnight shows. Brad Pitt’s Plan B zombie pic about an epic epidemic based on Max Brooks’ plague novel also started rolling day and date Thursday into 25 countries or 30% of the international market Thursday. First grosses came in and “look great”, according to Paramount.

Australia opened with $1.1M (exactly what Inception did) and Korea with $1.5M (Inception did $941K). Argentina grossed $710K on their holiday for the 3rd best opening Thursday ever in that market. Hong Kong did $350K. The studio said there were strong openings in some of the other smaller markets as well, for a total international cume of $5.7M Thursday which comps well with Inception‘s $3.6M for the same territories. Here and overseas, World War Z will be in direct competition with Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ Man Of Steel which going into today was still the big #1 leader in the worldwide marketplace. Man Of Steel for a probable $50M-$55M on its second weekend. And newcomer Monsters University is tracking even bigger than Cars and outselling Brave online - and could pull $60M-$75M this weekend. The big question mark is all that bad buzz which World War Z endured for six months and how much it will affect filmgoers. Paramount is quick to acknowledge that bad-mouthing has created low expectations and is projecting only mid-$40sM this weekend. But Fandango saw a surge in online ticket sales for World War Z Thursday and as of 1:30 PM it was outselling Superman. Paramount executives point out that there has never been a 3-day weekend with 3 different movies doing $50+M at the domestic box office. And they claim statistics show that only one original movie a year opens at $50M. (“Franchises open bigger but originals play to better multiples as people start discovering them,” one exec tells me.)

FRIDAY 4 PM UPDATE: World War Z and Monsters University now open in the U.S. and Canada after Thursday’s limited run with 8 PM late shows but into wide release Friday. Monsters Inc was originally released on November 2, 2001, and wound up nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song “If I Didn’t Have You” which won the Academy Award. This prequel hits theaters nearly 12 years later and is set during Mike’s and Sulley’s college years. This is the 14th Pixar feature release and inevitably it will debut #1 since the studio already is 13 for 13 #1 openings. The G-rated pic opens wide in 4,004 theaters on Friday. Meanwhile, Paramount’s focus for World War Z was on the Friday debut because the studio suspected there’d be an NBA Finals Game 7, and, obviously, there was. That allowed Paramount to air two spots during what was one of the most watched series’ ends in pro basketball history. Paramount keeps using Inception as a good but inexact comp for World War Z because, although the two movies are both originals and summer sci-fi tentpoles, only World War Z was filmed in 3D. With those higher ticket prices, more pressure is on the zombie pic to do better at the domestic box office than Inception‘s $62.7M opening in July 2010. Christopher Nolan’s Inception did nearly a 5x multiple helped by the helmer’s Batman trilogy mega-success. Interesting, because Brad Pitt outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for the movie rights to World War Z and then chose Marc Forster to direct it. But Forster is no Nolan. Still, with all kids out of school, and many adults starting vacations, and July 4th weekend fast approaching, it’s likely the movie will do solidly for several weeks but nowhere near a breakout blockbuster. ”People are getting excited by the movie now that we have it to show,” a Paramount exec explains. With good early reviews and vastly improved tracking, World War Z just might (emphasis on the word might) overperform despite stiff competition.

Frankly, I’ve never found zombies scary – they’re slow, so just outrun them, right? - although this pic has fast-moving zombies who swarm. But it’s not like lethal lasers are leaping out of their eyes. And these are PG-13 zombies who don’t look much different from the cable TV zombies on AMC’s Walking Dead. These also are expensive zombies. Much has been made of the film’s mega-cost: between $220M-$230M brought down by tax incentives to about $200M, or so the studio claims. Vanity Fair which typically ignores Hollywood moviemaking even did a long feature article about the pic’s budget, plot, and production problems, including reshoots and four writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Damon Lindelof, and Drew Goddard. Which all prompted Time film critic Richard Corliss to grouse this week, “So they spent a bundle. Doesn’t matter; it’s not your money. Your ticket to this movie, unless you see the 3D version, costs the same as one for a pinchpenny indie film.” Earth to Corliss: Paramount is part of publicly traded Viacom, and shareholders need to know if their money was wasted on a box office bomb so they can figure out which bums to blame for the almost certainty that this film is never going to earn out. But it won’t be a total write-off like John Carter or Battleship thanks to steps that Brad Pitt and Paramount took to try and fix the movie because it came out.

According to MovieTickets.com, domestic box office advance ticket sales for Man Of Steel accounted for nearly 33% of total daily transactions for Wednesday with Monsters University close behind with 28.2% and World War Z with 14.6%. But Fandango reports those numbers changing day by day: World War Z rose to 25% of sales, and Man Of Steel fell to 19%. In fact, Fandango said WWZ is selling 175% more tickets than Tom Cruise’s Oblivion at this same point in the release cycle. Monsters University was selling 50% more tickets than Brave at the same point in the sales cycle and accounted for 44% of Thursday’s ticket sales.

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