'Toy Story 3' is just about the surest of sure things this summer. There's no question that it'll be the weekend's top movie at the box office. Its only real competition is with fellow Disney 3-D feature 'Alice in Wonderland' for the biggest opening weekend of 2010.
'Alice' opened with $116 million. 'Toy Story 3' has a good chance of topping that and enjoying not just the year's biggest debut but the biggest opening of any movie in Pixar's history. div style="text-align: center;">
'Alice' opened with $116 million. 'Toy Story 3' has a good chance of topping that and enjoying not just the year's biggest debut but the biggest opening of any movie in Pixar's history.
Pixar movies tend to open around $60 to $70 million. 'Toy Story's' shot at doubling that figure comes from its skillful marketing by Disney (starting with the appetite-whetting 3D re-release of the first two 'Toy Story' movies last fall), its ultra-wide release (4,028 venues), and a boost over usual sales figures due to 3-D and IMAX surcharges on many screens. Plus, there's the cross-generational appeal of the 'Toy Story' franchise, from young kids to older folks who fell in love with Woody and Buzz Lightyear 15 years ago. Finally, there's the comparatively weak slate of competing movies.
In fact, that weak slate is the only real source of uncertainty here. In a summer where moviegoers have been fleeing from sequels and do-overs, is Pixar pushing its luck by making its first threequel? Probably not; advance buzz from critics is very strong and in keeping with Pixar's unblemished record of creating movies that are both critical and commercial hits.
Some prognosticators are so optimistic for 'Toy Story 3' that they're predicting an opening of $135 million, while Disney doesn't dare guess more than $85 million. Most predictions, however, have landed in the $100 to $120 million range, which sounds about right.
This weekend's other new wide release, 'Jonah Hex,' seems on paper like smart counterprogramming to 'Toy Story.' Opening on 2,825 screens, it's a violent Western based on a DC comic book, meant to appeal to teens and adults and general non-kid audiences. Look deeper, however, and 'Jonah' looks like a sacrificial lamb. Westerns are always a tough sell, and Warner Bros. hasn't marketed this one diligently. Leads Josh Brolin and Megan Fox don't have enough star power to open the film on the strength of their names. The comic book isn't widely known, but its cult of fans may find the movie disappointing, since it reportedly tones down the more explicit elements of the story in order to earn a PG-13 rating and draw more kids -- who will all be going to see 'Toy Story' this weekend. As a result, 'Jonah' will be lucky to lasso $10 to $15 million and open in third or fourth place.
Last week's winner, 'The Karate Kid' will fall to second place, though if it loses half of last week's business, it'll still add another $28 million or so to its take. Last week's other new movie, 'The A-Team,' should also lose about half its business, resulting in a take of about $13 million and a battle with 'Jonah Hex' for third place. Rounding out the top five will be 'Shrek Forever After.' A 50 percent loss would mean another $8 or $9 million for the ogre.
Top 5 predictions:
1. 'Toy Story 3,' $107 million
2. 'The Karate Kid,' $32 million
3. 'The A-Team,' $13 million
4. 'Jonah Hex,' $12 millioin
5. 'Shrek Forever After,' $8 million
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.