"Toy Story 3" is already a record-breaker for Pixar. The third installment of the adventures of Woody and his playtime buddies opened with the animation house's biggest opening weekend, its $110.3 million besting "The Incredibles" by almost $40 million. Inflation and 3-D ticket prices notwithstanding, "Toy Story 3" has blown past its original incarnation in just two full weekends and figures to ascend to the upper tier of Pixar releases by next weekend
So where will "Toy Story 3" end up in the Pixar ranks when its theatrical run comes to a close? The company's current record holder is "Finding Nemo," which netted $339.7 million in 2003 without the benefit of premium ticket prices. As things at the cinema stand now, though, those CGI fishies are about to lose their top Pixar spot to some 3-D toys.
" 'Toy Story 3' will have no problems at all surpassing 'Finding Nemo' to become Pixar's top-grossing film ever," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com. "[It] might even join the list of top 10 global blockbusters of all time."
For that to happen, "Toy Story 3" would need to cross the $400 million threshold, and to reach such a lofty goal, the movie will have to continue to attract repeat viewers. This week, two films that could eat into the "Toy Story" audience — "Eclipse" and "The Last Airbender" — arrive on the scene. "Eclipse" drops on Wednesday and should easily dominate the box office. The next day, "The Last Airbender," which is based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, opens across North America. With kids and their parents headed off to take in these fresh films, will repeat viewership for "Toy Story" plunge?
"The only thing standing in the way of 'Toy Story' becoming the biggest film of the summer is 'Eclipse,' " said Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "These bloodsuckers have serious box-office bite. To say the sequel expanded the brand after the original is an understatement. The real question is: has this series hit a tipping point? Usually, by the third film in a franchise, grosses diminish exponentially. Not so with fanatical franchises like 'Harry Potter,' 'Star Wars,' and 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Twilight.' They don't follow traditional box-office patterns. But that said, I do believe the fanbase has hit its glass ceiling, and that the threequel will perform very similarly to the sequel."
That would put "Eclipse" at slightly under the $300 million mark, whereas "Toy Story" could top that by as much as $100 million. Now lest you think "Toy Story 3" is simply benefiting from pricey 3-D tickets, note the case of 2009's "Up." That critically lauded Oscar nominee, presented in three dimensions (albeit before the current "Avatar"-induced 3-D craze), still could not unseat "Nemo." For "Toy Story 3" to have such a good chance of becoming Pixar's #1 speaks not only to ticket prices but to the appeal of the film itself, which many have suggested is the best in the three-picture series.
" 'Toy Story 3' has captured the magic of Pixar in a blockbuster sequel — a potent combination," Bock said. "And let's not forget the ancillary merchandizing markets that have toy aisles abuzz and practically barren. No one can touch that type of overall domination."
Yet despite its popularity, the movie might not sell as many tickets as "Nemo." Still, we count dollars, not tickets, and when it comes to the former, "Toy Story" is going to pull in record-breaking numbers. "With James Cameron not having a film this year, Woody and pals may even be the box-office champs of 2010," said Pandya.
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