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Disney’s ‘Monsters,’ With $82 Million, Tops Pitt’s Zombies (1)

June 24, 2013

Actor Billy Crystal

Actor Billy Crystal attends the world premiere of Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar animation's "Monsters University" at the El Capitan Theatre on June 17, 2013 in Hollywood, California. Photographer: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US)’s Pixar animation “Monsters University” took first place at U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend with $82.4 million in ticket sales, overcoming Brad Pitt’s zombie apocalypse tale “World War Z,” which was second with $66.4 million.

The films battled it out with last week’s top movie, Warner Bros.’s “Man of Steel,” which dropped to third, according to Box-Office. “World War Z,” from Paramount Pictures, beat forecasts that ranged from $45 million to $50 million. “Monsters University” surpassed estimates, including the $78 million projection of

“World War Z,” hampered by early publicity focused on soaring costs and re-shoots, benefited from positive reviews and a marketing blitz that included personal appearances from Pitt to highlight the scenes of zombie hordes racing through cities on the attack. The efforts helped Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US)’s Paramount avoid a potential box-office disaster like Disney’s “John Carter,” which lost $200 million last year.

“They made the hard decisions and spent the money and ultimately this is going to be the saving grace of this film,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations Co.

Don Harris, president of domestic distribution for Los Angeles-based Paramount, said “a really smart marketing campaign” helped pull people into theater seats.

“In the consumer world, by the time we got a month out any negativity associated with this movie had pretty well dissipated,” he said.

Zombie Virus

In the film, based on Max Brooks’s novel, Pitt portrays a retired United Nations researcher called on to discover the origin of the zombie virus. He witnesses a global apocalypse during a search that takes him to Korea, Israel and Britain. The film had a 68 percent “fresh” rating on

Bloomberg News critic Greg Evans compared the film’s realistic presentation of the fantastical to the 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist.”

“‘World War Z’ is a throwback to the full-throttle horror films of the 1970s, posing its zombie what-ifs with the same realism summoned to imagine what might happen if a Georgetown girl met the devil,” he wrote.

The re-shot conclusion opens the possibility for a sequel, something the studio is considering, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said in an interview before the film opened.

The film was the biggest opening ever for Pitt, Box-Office said.

Streak Holds

“Monsters University,” a prequel to Pixar’s 2001 hit “Monsters Inc.,” follows creatures Mike and Sulley during their college training to become full-fledged monsters. The movie features the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman. “Monsters Inc.” opened with $62.6 million and had global sales of $562.8 million.

The debut of “Monsters University” at No. 1 continues a Pixar streak, with all 14 of its feature films premiering atop the box office. The film also was the second-biggest debut for the studio, behind 2010’s “Toy Story 3” ($110.3 million).

“Man of Steel” had sales of $41.3 million and has taken in $210.1 million since it was released on June 14.

The movie, produced by “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan, is infused with a darker tone than previous Superman films. In the new version, the young Kryptonian, played by British actor Henry Cavill, becomes a drifter, working odd jobs while trying to discover his purpose and place among humans.

‘Bling Ring’

The weekend’s other new film, “The Bling Ring,” took in $2 million in 650 theaters to place 11th.

The movie, directed by Sofia Coppola, is loosely based on the true events about fame-obsessed teens who burglarize the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The R-rated film features “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga, the younger sister of Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga. The movie is from New York-based independent distributor A24.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 48 percent to $232.4 million from the year-earlier period, said. Attendance is down 2.4 percent year to date, while revenue is 2.7 percent lower at $4.97 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box office figures provided by studios to Box-Office. The amounts are based on actual ticket sales for June 21 to June 23.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 MONSTERS UNIVERSITY $82.4   4,004  $20,587   --    $82.4    1
 2 WORLD WAR Z          66.4   3,607   18,412   --     66.4    1
 3 MAN OF STEEL         41.3   4,207    9,814  -65    210.1    2
 4 THIS IS THE END      13.3   3,055    4,350  -36     58.1    2
 5 NOW YOU SEE ME        7.9   2,823    2,790  -29     94.5    4
 6 FAST & FURIOUS 6      4.9   2,417    2,040  -49    228.6    5
 7 THE PURGE             3.6   2,201    1,630  -57     59.6    3
 8 THE INTERNSHIP        3.4   1,916    1,775  -52     38.3    3
 9 STAR TREK             3.2   1,565    2,023  -49    216.8    6
10 IRON MAN 3            2.2     924    2,395  -25    403.2    8
11 THE BLING RING        2.0     650    3,080  842      2.3    2
12 EPIC (3-D/ANIMATED)   1.8   1,994      899  -71    101.0    5

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $232.4        $157.4       +48

Year-to-date Revenue

     2013          2012
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $4,973        $5,108      -2.7

Year-to-date Attendance:     -2.4%

Source: Box-Office

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at; Daniel Kruger in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at

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