Will The Success Of ‘Brave’ Put Pixar Back In The Oscar Game?

By | Monday June 25, 2012 @ 1:55pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Can Brave help Pixar make a comeback at the Oscars this year?

I know that may sound strange to say about a company that has won the Animated Feature AcademyPixar Brave Oscars Award an unprecedented six times — including four times in a row between 2007-2010 — and been nominated eight of the nine times it has been eligible since the category was established in 2001. (Of Pixar’s previous 12 films, Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and A Bug’s Life came before.) It even managed two Best Picture noms along the way. Who else can boast of that kind of track record? But last year, the Oscar nomination streak in the Ani category came to screeching halt with Cars 2, a movie that also bottomed out with the critics, managing only a 38% fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes, where the company had been accustomed to rating in the high 90s — at or near the top of the pack of all the year’s releases. In fact, out of all Pixar films released before Brave, the only movie to score below a 92 on RT was the original Cars, which garnered a still-respectable 74% fresh score. Brave stands right now at 75% fresh, good by most standards but still the smallest number for a Pixar movie outside the two Cars movies.

Will it matter? Its smash $66 million haul in opening-weekend boxoffice certainly was heartening, if underwhelming, to some analysts, as Deadline reported today. They seem to unrealistically expect the moon where Pixar is involved, even though Brave marked the studio’s remarkable 13th No. 1 opening out of 13. Its ‘A’ Cinemascore audience-satisfaction rating is also a big plus in carrying momentum forward. But is the bloom off the Oscar rose as far as the animation committee that chooses nominees? Read More »

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Familiar Field Battles For Best Animated Feature Annie Awards

Mike Fleming

The nominations are out for the 39th annual Annie Awards, which will be awarded February 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Here are the contenders for Best Animated Feature: A Cat In Paris, Arrugas (Wrinkles), Arthur Christmas, Cars 2, Chico & Read More »

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Big Media 3Q Corporate Earnings Roundup: Are CEOs Really Worried About Recession? Or Just Looking For Convenient Excuse?

Three months ago, when Big Media CEOs wrapped up their 2Q earnings, they were still relentlessly upbeat about the business. Any worries about the economy? Not then. But the messages they delivered over the past few weeks, as they discussed 3Q, were different. Although they’re still optimistic — remember, they’re paid to be salesmen — now and then you could hear expressions of concern about where things are headed. It stood out when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted that “ad sales growth will face some headwinds.” Other CEOs who are known for speaking bluntly warned that other shocks may bedevil the business. For example, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that his satellite company — and others in pay TV — have to fight harder against rising programming costs because “there’s a limit to the price increases that could be passed on to consumers.” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt warned that premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz “are clearly impacted by the economy as consumers try to cut back.” Either they’re genuinely worried, or they want a scapegoat to blame for things that are going bad, or may soon do so. Whatever the case, we can expect to hear a lot more about the economy when it’s time for the post-mortem on the all-important 4Q earnings.

As for industry performance matters, parents of movie studios had their usual mixed results to brag about or explain away: Time Warner benefitted from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Viacom was up on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And News Corp beat its chest about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: First Class. But Disney’s Cars 2 was no match for last year’s Toy Story 3. Comcast’s Universal Pictures had nothing to compare to last year’s Despicable Me. Lionsgate suffered from Conan The Barbarian and Warrior. And DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t contribute as much in the quarter as Shrek Forever After did in the same period last year.

Over at the TV networks, Comcast’s NBC underperformed the Street’s already modest expectations. Execs at almost all the companies were eager to talk about the cash they expect to collect soon from political ads — as well as their favorite new ATM machines: retransmission consent deals and digital streamers including Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings once again tried to reassure investors that he’s focused on “building back our reputation and brand strength” after his decision in July to slap a 60% price increase on customers who wanted to continue to rent DVDs and stream videos. In 3Q Netflix lost 57.7% of its market value and 800,000 subscribers. And since that customer loss was bigger than projected, Netflix shares continued to fall — they’re now down 67.3% since July 1.

Here are some other themes from the latest earnings reports:

Ad sales: They’s good, but for how long? Most television networks report that scatter prices are comfortably above the upfront market from this past summer. CBS chief Les Moonves says prices in 4Q are up by “mid-teens” on a percentage basis, while Discovery says it sees least high single digit percentages. But Disney’s Bob Iger noted that scatter prices have “slowed slightly these last few weeks.” Kurt Hall of National CineMedia — the leading seller of ads in movie theaters — was far more direct when he spoke to analysts after ratcheting down his company’s financial forecasts. “I’m sure that the broadcast and cable guys are sitting there now counting their lucky stars they got their upfront done before August,” he told analysts. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.” Read More »

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Disney Beats Fiscal 4Q Estimates With Strong Results At ESPN And Theme Parks

By | Thursday November 10, 2011 @ 10:58pm PST

The company reported net income of $1.1B, up 30% vs the period last year, on revenues of $10.43B, up 7%. That comfortably beat Street forecasts for revenues of $10.36B. Earnings, at 58 cents a share, also topped predictions of 54 cents … Read More »

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OSCARS: Animation Feature Race Heats Up – But Will Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’ Make The Cut?

Pete Hammond

There is always controversy about what is true animation, particularly with the motion capture process which uses real performances by actors and then essentially animates the scenes. I’m told that key members in the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’s … Read More »

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Wrinkles: ‘Cars 2′ Returns, ‘Warrior’ Sneaks

By | Friday September 2, 2011 @ 4:38am PDT

This Labor Day box office, The Weinstein Co opens Dimension Films’ Apollo 18 in 3,328 theaters while Relativity Media chums Shark Night 3D in 2,806 locations. But also Disney/Pixar is expanding the run of Cars 2 this Friday for special end-of-summer return engagements at a total of 2,043 theaters. (The … Read More »

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Disney Probing ‘Cars’ Toy Factory In China

By | Sunday August 28, 2011 @ 4:01pm PDT

Disney claims it is looking into accusations of human rights abuse at the factory in China that makes its popular Cars and Toy Story merchandise. An undercover investigation, which took place in June after a factory employee’s suicide, revealed mistreatment … Read More »

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Who Needs Comic-Con? Disney Reveals All At D23 Expo

Pete Hammond

Disney Announces Two New Pixar Films
Who needs Comic-Con when you can do it yourself?

That must be exactly what Disney is thinking as it continues its massive second annual Disney D23/ Expo, the “ultimate fan event” taking place all weekend long at the Anaheim Convention Center right next to Disneyland (the name refers to 1923, the year Walt Disney started his studio).  It’s an offshoot of the official Disney Fan Club and includes a ginormous exhibition center with every imaginable opportunity to buy Disneyana, numerous fan events and celebrity-sighting opps, and then there was today’s centerpiece: a near-three-hour preview of movies in the pipeline from Disney, Pixar and Marvel (which announced a partnership with the company in 2009 that is just now gearing up).

Call it “Mickey Con”. It’s all a bit overwhelming, so no wonder it takes three days just to get through it all. The event continues through the end of Sunday.

After his major presentation of the new Disney slate in the gargantuan arena in front of 4200 seemingly rabid fans (and a few more restrained press members), I caught up with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross in the Green Room for an exclusive interview in which he talked about the possibilities of a fifth Pirate.s of the Caribbean film as well as his first comments on the demise of  Pirates team Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer’s about-to-shoot Western The Lone Ranger, which Deadline’s Mike Fleming first reported had been dropped by Disney due to budgetary concerns on the pricey pic. When I asked Ross if there was anything new to report  he said, ”Nothing definitive. There is nothing new. I’m hoping to do it, I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” And about the possibility of a fifth Pirates? The situation is obviously clouded with the Lone Ranger situation, but again he used the word “hopeful.” Read More »

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Iger: Disney Monitoring Recession Indicators But Sees No Consumer Impact Yet

UPDATE, 3:10 PM: CEO Bob Iger told analysts that Disney hasn’t seen much change in consumer spending plans as a result of the stock market gyrations and recession talk over the last few days. He Read More »

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VA VROOM! ‘Cars 2′ Revs $68M Weekend; ‘Bad Teacher’ More Than Good For $31M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.

1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M

Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.

But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”

Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.

2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M

Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)

Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on collegehumor.com. Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.

Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden. Read More »

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Hammond: ‘Toy Story’ Jumps Back Into Theatres – And 2011 Oscar Race?

By | Wednesday June 22, 2011 @ 4:48pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Toy Story 3 may have picked up a 2010 Best Picture nomination and a couple of other Oscars (for Best Animated Feature and Song), but who knew the Toy Story gang would come roaring back into the Oscar race just four months later? That could be the case as Disney/Pixar is about to release the first of two newly minted Toy Story Toons. Hawaiian Vacation opens Friday with the studio’s 2011 animated feature hopeful, Cars 2. A second toon is planned to go with the release of The Muppets in November, making both eligible for the Best Animated Short Oscar this year and creating a situation where Disney/Pixar could be competing against itself. Several other ideas for future installments are also in development at Pixar.

For those who can’t get enough of the Toy Story brand (Toy Story 3 grossed over $1 billion worldwide since its release a year ago), the six-minute Hawaiian Vacation picks up where TS3 pretty much left off, with the characters now living together in new owner Bonnie’s bedroom where they plan a makeshift romantic island getaway for Ken and Barbie after Ken screwed up travel plans in the dead of winter. The short reunites the entire impressive cast including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Joan Cusack, Jodi Benson and the rest.

“It’s amazing; it was one of the key issues we had in going ahead,” director Gary Rydstrom told me this morning. ”We wanted to do it with all the cast, all the characters, so it was important to get all the actors on board with it, which they happily did. I don’t think it would have been possible without them.” Read More »

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Will ‘Cars’ Move More Merchandise Than ‘Toy Story 3′? Either Way, Disney Will Remain The World’s No. 1 Licensor

Consumers worldwide spent $2.4 billion last year on merchandise related to Toy Story 3, helping Disney to easily reclaim the No. 1 position on License! Global magazine’s annual tally of the top sellers of stuff emblazoned with trademarked characters and … Read More »

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Big Media’s 1Q Earnings Roundup: Cash

The money is flowing again into Big Media. Just about every media CEO who recently spoke to Wall Street analysts about this year’s 1st Quarter earnings said that ad sales are up and consumers are spending. “Viacom … Read More »

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CANNES: 2011 Fest Ready For Its Closeup

Pete Hammond

Just as I hit the ground at the Nice airport today I ran smack into Jude Law, one of the main competition jury members of the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (under President Robert De Niro), and he looked rarin’ to go as he arrived for all the hoopla and non-stop filmgoing over the next 11 days. We’ll see what he feels like after plowing through the 20 competition films as well as those out of competition such as Wednesday night’s opener, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, and the closer, on May 22, Christophe Honore’s 2-hour and 25-minute Les Bien-Aimes (Beloved), the longest of any film in the official competition — competing or not.

Workers were busily attaching huge billboards up on the big Croisette hotels when I cruised the tony neighborhood earlier today, but the world’s second-most-famous red carpet won’t be laid out until midday tomorrow just before Woody, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson and the cast of the director’s first French-set film make their way up those famous Palais steps for his love letter to Paree. It was hoped that co-star Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, First Lady of France, would be coming too, but I heard she’s not making the trip after all and neither is her husband. C’est La Vie.

Up and down the Croisette you are bombarded as usual by Hollywood product being hyped on any available space. The new Transformers film from that auteur (NOT) Michael Bay got the hot spot at the Carlton entrance right next to a display for Disney/Pixar’s  Cars 2 on one side and Cowboys and Aliens on the other. Lording over them, though, are The Smurfs and all of those Pirates of the Caribbean, which plans to make a huge splash here Saturday as the prime-time film on one of the key nights of the fest. Star power will be in force, of course, with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz driving the paparazzi wild, which is just what Disney wants for its global launch of the film that premiered last week at Disneyland and makes another stop in Moscow before hitting the Cote d’Azur. Cannes, though a serious-minded haven for cineastes, doesn’t mind the attention either. Read More »

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Disney Expands Magazine Business With New Kids-Targeted Titles

By | Monday March 21, 2011 @ 8:41am PDT

Disney Publishing Worldwide announced today it is adding four titles based on its properties to join a U.S. roster that included the moms-skewing monthly Disney FamilyFun. The first, Phineas and Ferb, based on the hit Disney XD TV series, will … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Cars 2′

By | Tuesday November 16, 2010 @ 8:48am PST
Mike Fleming

After hitting paydirt with Toy Story 3, Disney and Pixar are back for seconds with a Cars 2 trailer.

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IMAX And Disney Sign 3-Picture 2011 Deal

LOS ANGELES, June 23, 2010 – IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) and The Walt Disney Studios today announced a new agreement to release three additional 3D pictures to IMAX® theatres in 2011. The titles included are Mars Needs Moms, starring Seth Green and Joan Cusack, slated for release on March

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