The final eight films in Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster movie tournament face off today. This is the fourth of our quarterfinal matchups and for the first time we reveal the numbers behind the numbers that show just how …
2013 Most Valuable Blockbuster – #7 ‘Monsters University’ Vs. #10 ‘Thor: The Dark World’; #2 ‘Frozen’ Vs. #15 ‘The Great Gatsby’
#1 ‘Iron Man 3′ Vs. #16 ‘The Conjuring’
#3 ‘Despicable Me 2′ Vs. #14 Star Trek Into Darkness’
#4 ‘Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug’ Vs. #13 ‘Oz The Great And Powerful’
#5 ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Vs. #12 ‘World War Z’
#6 ‘Fast & Furious 6′ Vs. #11 ‘The Croods’
#8 ‘Gravity’ Vs. #9 ‘Man Of Steel’
#7 MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Vs. #10 THOR: THE DARK WORLD
How They Got Here: Monsters University might well be the most stealthy of all the films that grossed more than three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide. The film was the seventh-largest domestic grosser of the year, and did near double that abroad. Pixar’s representative in the tournament turned in the second-largest gross of all films from the John Lasseter hit machine, second-largest G-rated film, and is Pixar’s third biggest overall film ever. Thor: The Dark World continues the Marvel superhero juggernaut, and it did particularly well in China, Russia and the UK. While the hammer-wielding hero pales compared to Iron Man, the sequel bettered the original film in both domestic and overseas for a total tally of $645 million.
The Bottom Line: Thor 2 cost $170 million to make, per our experts, and because Marvel is so stingy to everyone but Robert Downey Jr, there are modest participations here that amount to around $12 million. Monsters University cost $200 million, and that include pricey paydays for returning voicers like John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Participations clocked in at around $13.5 million.
The Winner: Neither gains much of an edge because each is the second installment of a franchise, though Thor 2 probably amps up expectations of the next installments of Marvel’s biggest jewel, The Avengers. So we go to the profit numbers. According to our experts, Monsters University will return $179.8 million to Disney, besting the $139.4 million that Thor 2 returns to Disney. Total cash-on-cash return edge goes to Monsters University, at 1.36 to the 1.32 turned in by Thor 2. Disney is the big winner here, but Monsters University advances.
The race for best animated feature is usually fairly easy to predict. With a few exceptions, you can always count on Disney/Pixar to win or place. The studio has had a pony on this track nearly every year the category has been in existence since 2001 (when DreamWorks’ Shrek became the inaugural winner). In fact, Pixar has won the prize an astonishing seven times, most recently last year when Brave triumphed. In off-years, other studios have had a shot, too, with Warner Bros. winning for Happy Feet and Paramount for Rango. And although several independent lower-budget toons have been nominated recently, the win usually goes to the higher-profile studio offerings. This year, there are lots of indies entered, but expect the battle to continue among the titans, especially studios who are pouring money into campaigns for their box office behemoths. So when it comes to predicting a surefire winner, there just doesn’t seem to be one this year.
A late-breaking entry into the race has been Disney’s musical Frozen, which has wowed critics and has been cleaning up at the box office throughout the holiday season. That, plus a huge push by Disney may be propelling it to the top of the pack. In the vein of Tangled and The Little Mermaid, Frozen comes from the creative team behind last year’s Wreck-It Ralph and carries a long pedigree of the studio’s tuneful toons, which have enjoyed a string of enormous successes over the past two decades. The fact that the songs come from the same group that delivered The Book Of Mormon also gives it a hip factor. Voters might want to reward Disney for returning to its roots, but ratcheting up the material. Disney also has Planes, a modest late-summer performer that is basically another sequel of sorts to the Cars franchise and won’t fly high in this company. But more promisingly on the subject of “planes,” Disney has famed Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, which is the fictionalized biography of the man who created the Zero plane used during World War II.
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
You gotta give Pixar credit — they never follow the easy path. Take Monsters University, the first prequel to come out of the Emeryville toon works. Prequels are still new territory for storytelling purposes and it was no small feat for first-time feature director Dan Scanlon to come up with a story that met Pixar’s high standards when everyone who had seen 2001’s hit Monsters, Inc. knows where cyclopean nice-guy Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, ends up.
“It was a good story to tell as a prequel, because the drama comes out of knowing things aren’t going to work out for him,” says Scanlon. “He’s so excited about his journey and yet the audience knows it’s not going to work out. We had to really think about telling the story in a different way and really own the fact that people know the end instead of trying to deny it, which I think we probably did at first.”
Related: Annie Awards Nominations Unveiled
D23: Disney Announces New Movies And Big Voice Castings, Offers Details On ‘Finding Nemo’ & ‘Planes’ Sequels
Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor.
A new Disney Animation movie, big-name voice castings, a new Mickey Mouse short, details on the Finding Nemo and Planes sequels, two new Tinkerbell pics – there was no shortage of news during day 1 of Disney’s annual D23 expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. John Lasseter revealed Zootopia, due in 2016. It’s described as being in the tradition of Mr. Toad, where animals wear human clothes. “I loved those movies,” Lasseter said. Director Byron Howard and writer Jared Bush described Zootopia as “a buddy action film” in which the animal characters inhabit in a world where “humans never existed.”
Lasseter and company unveiled some boldfaced voice talent for a handful of upcoming projects. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur will feature Raising Hope‘s Lucas Neff as star dino Arlo, John Lithgow as Poppa and Frances McDormand as Momma. Arlo’s siblings will be voiced by Hader, Judy Greer and Neil Patrick Harris. Lasseter said a new Monsters University short film, Party Central, will premiere ahead of Good Dinosaur when it’s released next summer. Fans at today’s panel got a sneak peak at the short, about what happens when the monsters try to throw a frat party.
Almost exactly one year ago, Fox Searchlight released Beasts Of The Southern Wild. The Sundance sensation was significant in many ways, but it also stood out as the only 2012 Best Picture Oscar nominee to have been released in theatres in the definitely NOT Oscar-friendly first half of the year — and coming at the tail end of June it made that distinction by the skin of its teeth. The fact is, in Oscar’s modern era at least, it’s just not wise to risk a release in the first half of the eligibility year if you want to have a serious shot at Best Picture or other major Oscars. In the last five years only seven films have managed to buck the trend (Hurt Locker and Up in June 2009; Winter’s Bone and Toy Story 3 in June 2010; and Midnight In Paris and The Tree Of Life in May 2011 were the others), and that’s only because the Academy doubled its potential Best Pic noms from five to 10. In 2008, the last year there were only five nominees, no film was nominated in the top category that wasn’t released in the second half of the year.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the long list of Oscar’s Best Picture winners have included early-release films that forced voters to have longer memories: Hurt Locker, Crash (May 2005), Gladiator (May 2000), Braveheart (May 1995) and Silence Of The Lambs (February 1991). The latter was particularly impressive since you would have to go back to Patton in 1970, during Hollywood’s road show era where films played a year on a single screen, to find another Best Pic winner released as early as February. That one definitely went against the grain of thinking in the modern era of Oscar campaigns.
So with the 2013 Oscar race hitting the halfway point this week, and assuming Friday’s crop of The Heat and White House Down are not Best Pic caliber, is there anything that has hit theatres pre-July that looms as a serious Best Picture contender? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Here’s the final trailer for Disney/Pixar’s Monsters University with Mike (Billy Crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and the rest of the incoming class of 2013. Voice cast also includes Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Dave Foley, Sean P. Hayes, Joel Murray, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day, Nathan Fillion, Bobby Moynihan, …
Disney announced that it will keep three of its theme parks open for 24 hours in a row on May 24 to celebrate the start of summer. Disneyland Park and Disney Adventure …
Here’s a new UK trailer for Disney/Pixar‘s Monsters University. This one focuses on Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) as they study to become “scarers.” It also introduces Helen Mirren’s Dean Hardscrabble. Steve Buscemi, John Krasinski, Nathan Fillion and Alfred Molina also star. The film …
Disney Infinity allows players to use characters from Disney franchises, including Monsters University, Pirates Of the Caribbean and The Incredibles. Disney unveiled the gaming platform today in Los Angeles. Throughout each story-driven experience, called a Play Set, players will solve challenging puzzles, battle enemies and explore iconic locations from famous Disney properties, while collecting unique characters, vehicles, and gadgets from each world and saving them to a virtual Toy Box, Disney Interactive said in a statement. Players can access their Toy Box and build and customize their own unique virtual world using their favorite characters, vehicles, settings and accessories. Disney Infinity will launch in June across all consoles and will have a phased roll out across mobile and online devices throughout 2013. Development for Disney Infinity is being led by Disney Interactive and Avalanche Software. Click over to read the full release: