Superman has the strength, Brad Pitt has the looks, but it will be educated cartoon creatures who end up on top.
Pixar's "Monsters University," a prequel to 2001's "Monsters, Inc.," is projected to win the weekend at the box office even against Pitt's zombie-filled "World War Z" and last weekend's record-breaking champion, "Man of Steel." In Pixar Animation's latest, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) meet as rivals in college, in a story with nods to "Revenge of the Nerds," "Animal House" and other college movie classics.
Analysts predicted an opening weekend between $70 and $80 million for "Monsters University," which would be the biggest opening for an animated flick since "Toy Story 3." The higher end of that would put it behind "Iron Man 3," "Man of Steel" and "Fast & Furious 6" on the 2013 openings scorecard. "Oz the Great and Powerful" opened with $79 million.
Only three Pixar movies have made more than "Monsters, Inc." (once adjusted for inflation) out of the 13 films the studio released before "Monsters University." The last two pictures from the Northern California-based powerhouse, "Brave" and "Cars 2," weren't the type of hits that had defined the Pixar brand. Worse still, "Cars 2" earned the unfortunate distinction of being the only Pixar movie with a "rotten" score on the Rotten Tomatoes "Tomatometer," which aggregates reviews from film critics. The familiarity with the characters from "Inc." and the lack of a rival family movie in the marketplace should help "Monsters U." restore the Pixar brand to its once untouchable status.
That will leave Superman and Brad Pitt to battle it out for #2. Pitt snatched up the rights to the hit "World War Z" novel seven years ago and finally sees the fruits of his labor hitting theaters. "It's just big and fun and this is the most intense thing you're going to see all year," Pitt promised MTV News at the premiere. "It's the most intense thing I've ever done."
The zombie-filled tale carries a PG-13 rating, which should broaden its appeal, but it was plagued by reshoots, the work of multiple writers and a huge budget. Going into the weekend, Paramount projected a debut no bigger than $40 million, but Entertainment Weekly predicted $48 million and the Los Angeles Times put the number at $50 million.
EW gave the edge to "Man of Steel" with a $53 million estimate. The Superman reboot is expected to surpass the $200 million earned by "Superman Returns" during its entire theatrical run in just two weeks. No wonder there's a sequel on the way. Whatever the result, expect a close race between "Man of Steel" and "World War Z" for the runner-up spot.
Last weekend's runner-up, "This Is the End," should remain in the top five. Co-written, co-directed and co-starring Seth Rogen, the apocalyptic action comedy features a large cast (and several cameos) made up of Rogen's actor friends, all playing themselves. "This Is the End" has great reviews, strong word of mouth and little competition from other movies right now in terms of content. Holdover drama "Now You See Me" should remain in the top five as well.
Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," a movie based on the real-life exploits of a group of thieves who broke into Paris Hilton's home (among other places), will jump from five theaters to 650. Meanwhile, "Monsters University" opens in more than 4000 theaters.