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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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Hot Trailer: ‘The Hangover Part II’

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 5:50pm PDT

The Warner Bros sequel comes out May 26.

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Hot Teaser Trailer: ‘The Hangover Part II’

By | Friday February 25, 2011 @ 6:19pm PST

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Warner Bros Confirms Stunt Driver Injured On ‘The Hangover Pt II’ Location In Bangkok

By | Monday December 27, 2010 @ 4:30pm PST

UPDATE: I’m told this was a “planned, choreographed, rehearsed” stunt sequence, and that the car crashing into the truck was “entirely accidental” and not part of the stunt. The doctors have Scott McLean in an induced coma to aid in his recovery and that the info received by the studio so far on his status indicates he will recover from the injury. No actors were on set at the time of the accident.

Previous: Warner Bros has stated: ”There was an accident involving a truck and a car on the second unit set of The Hangover Part II near Bangkok, Thailand, at approximately 3:00 AM on Friday, December 17 (Bangkok time). A stuntman was injured during the filming of this sequence. The truck and car were both driven by stunt drivers. An ambulance immediately took the injured stuntman to the local hospital, and he has since been transported to a hospital in Bangkok, where advanced care is being provided. We are awaiting further details concerning his condition.” Australian newspapers have identified him as Queensland-raised Scott McLean, who in 2007 described himself as close to Australia’s top 10 stunt drivers and is now reported to be in a coma. Details are sketchy, but reports suggest that two cars travelling at high speed crashed into each other in Bangkok as part of the stunt.

In another stunt gone wrong earlier this year, Paramount was slapped with a lawsuit in October on behalf of 24-year-old Gabriela Cedillo, the extra on … Read More »

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For Young Thesps, It’s All About Locking Roles Before Holidays

Mike Fleming

The town is slowing, but not the deal makers who are racing to lock their young clients into jobs before everything shuts down for the holidays. Here are some of the more interesting results:

British actor Joshua Bowman just got the love interest to Miley Cyrus in her new film So Undercover, which is being financed by Exclusive Media Group and directed by Tom Vaughan. The actor’s repped by Management 360 and United Agents.

Lily Collins has been set to star in the first installment of the Mortal Instruments book series which is being directed by Scott Charles Stewart for Screen Gems. She’ll play the role of Clary Fray. Collins, who followed The Blind Side by starring with Taylor Lautner in Abduction, next stars in Priest. She’s repped by CAA.

Max Minghella has landed the role of Ben Harper in Ides of March, which George Clooney will begin directing next year. with Ryan Gosling starring. Minghella, who’s coming off The Social Network, just starred in the New Regency-Summit supernatural project The Darkest Hour. He’s repped by CAA.

Caleb Landry Jones joins Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Foster in Contraband for Universal and Working Title. He’ll play the brother in law of a retired smuggler (Wahlberg) whose screw-up forces him back for one last … Read More »

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Paul Giamatti Set For ‘Hangover II’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Giamatti has been set to join The Hangover Part II. He will join director Todd Phillips and the film’s cast in Thailand in a few weeks. Giamatti is filming Too Big to Fail for HBO, playing Ben Bernanke, and he’s been stumping for Oscar consideration for his starring role in Barney’s Version. Giamatti will next be seen in the Tom McCarthy-directed Win Win for Fox Searchlight.

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