Director Andrew Stanton, Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres are returning for Finding Dory, the sequel to Pixar‘s 2003 pic that has been long in the works. Disney has set a November 25, 2015 release date for the movie, which will take place about a year after the original film and focus on Dory (DeGeneres), the blue tang fish who helped Nemo find his way home in the first pic. Finding Nemo won the Best Animated Feature Oscar and is now fourth-highest-grossing animated film worldwide. Stanton returned to the fold in July, and DeGeneres signed on soon after. “There is no Dory without Ellen,” Stanton said in the release today announcing the date. “One thing we couldn’t stop thinking about was why she was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In Finding Dory, she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way.”
SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: It was a revived box office at the start of the domestic weekend with respectable grosses for both opening but non-original pics. That’s a relief for Hollywood after weeks of lackluster threatrical sales and the lowest-grossing weekend in at least four years. But total moviegoing this weekend is only $86M, or -15% from last year when The Lion King in 3D made $30.1M. Then again, it had not been available on home entertainment since 1994 and was a ‘Disney Vault’ item much in demand in 3D. In contrast, Disney/Pixar’s 3D version of its 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo (2,904 theaters) took in only $17.5M for the weekend despite the lack of fresh family fare in the cineplex. It also made $5.1M from 7 territories representing 22% of the international market. Which brings its global cume from all releases to $890.2M.
Sony/Screen Gems/Constantin Films’ 3D Resident Evil: Retribution (3,012 theaters) is the 5th installment in the sexy sci-fi/horror franchise and was an easy #1 against the clownfish. It opened with $8.8M Friday helped by $665K from midnight screenings. It topped out at $21.1M for the domestic weekend, which is less than the franchise’s 4th installment. No matter because it makes its real moolah overseas. Indeed, Resident Evil: Retribution grossed a big $50M overseas for a total $71.1M worldwide in just its first few days of release. That beats the last one overseas by about 28%. “This could be the biggest one yet,” a Sony exec gushed to me. Exit polls showed that 64% of the audience was male and 45% under age 25. About 48% experienced the film in 3D, 34% saw it in 2D, 14% viewed it in IMAX, and another 4% viewed it in other PLF theaters.
Frankly, the blogosphere has not always been kind to this series or the writing/directing/producing team of Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt (Impact Pictures). But I can’t argue with RE‘s amazing success. To give you an idea, the previous 4 films have an aggregate worldwide gross of $675M. The last film made $296M. If this 5th film could get to $325M worldwide, then the franchise hits $1B in worldwide box office. And I haven’t even mentioned the big DVD numbers. All on an aggregate budget of a mere $250M. How many filmmakers have created that return on investment? Also, Anderson has now shot his last 3 films in 3D, using the Vince Pace rigs, and is one of the few Hollywood directors comfortable with it. As a major player I respect emailed me this weekend, “Paul should get his due. He’s one of the most under-appreciated directors out there.”
And fresh from the Venice and Toronto International Film Festival circuit, The Weinstein Company’s much ballyhooed anti-Scientology movie The Master began its platform run and Oscar campaign by breaking art house records. Director Paul Thomas Anderson and talents Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman got off to a great start in limited release in 5 art houses (3 in NY and 2 in LA) grossing $729,745. Weinstein picked up the film from Annapurna for worldwide distribution. The indie studio was hoping to beat the art house record of $130K per screen set by Focus Features’ Moonrise Kingdom this year – and did just that with $145K.
Also of note, the same distribution company Rocky Mountain Pictures that released the hit political documentary 2016: Obama’s America on Friday opened Last Ounce of Courage. Both pics were in the Top 10 on Friday but fell out by Sunday. The newest pic aimed at “freedom-loving faith-based” audiences should have received a slow rollout. Instead, it debuted in 1,407 theaters with a marketing push including TV buys. Once again, this kind of movie produces strong pre-sales then grosses dwindle. It opened with a $1.7 weekend. Not sure if this pic has legs.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Roadside Attractions’ and Lionsgate’s Arbitrage for the biggest U.S. opening ever for a film debuting in both movie theaters and On Demand — and by a wide margin. Because it made $2M this weekend on only 197 screens for a per screen average of $10.5K. The Richard Gere starrer written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki had Roadside boss Howard Cohen kvelling to me. Amd the film also is #2 on iTunes overall and #1 in both Drama and Thriller categories.
A fantastic weekend for the indies… Don’t miss Deadline’s specialty box office report later today.
Here’s the Top Ten movies based on weekend estimates:
1. Resident Evil 5 (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [3,012 Runs]
Friday $8.4M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $21.1M
2. Finding Nemo (Pixar/Disney) NEW [2,904 Runs]
Friday $5.0M, Saturday $7.0M, Weekend $17.5M
EXCLUSIVE: While Andrew Stanton‘s live-action feature directing debut John Carter led to a precedent-setting $200 million write-down for Disney earlier this summer, the filmmaker is officially out of director jail. I’ve been hearing for months that he would come aboard to direct the sequel to Disney-based Pixar‘s Finding Nemo, with the idea that Disney would give him another shot behind the camera on a live-action film.
I’m told he’s now officially come aboard the Finding Nemo sequel and has a concept the studio loves. Pixar continues to not be helpful on this, as they don’t comment on development. It’s understandable why Disney and Pixar would be excited by this. Stanton won two Oscars for his animation work on Wall-E and Finding Nemo. That original 2003′s fish tale’s $867.9 million worldwide gross makes it still Pixar’s second-highest-grossing film and the third-biggest Disney animated film release ever. And that comes before Finding Nemo is re-released in 3D in September.