Fears that Pixar Animation Studios could have its first box-office dud were left in the dust this weekend as "Cars 2" opened to a solid $68 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios.
Though far behind the opening of last year's much more popular sequel "Toy Story 3," the follow-up to the tale about anthropormophic automobiles that has been a merchandising bonanza among young boys was right in line with other recent Pixar releases such as 2009's "Up" and 2008's "Wall-E," which debuted with $68.1 million and $63.1 million, respectively.
Prerelease surveys had indicated that "Cars 2" would open at around $55 million, the second-lowest debut for a Pixar film this decade and below even the original "Cars" five years ago. Combined with soft reviews, that prediction had many at Disney worried. Instead, the picture's $68-million launch indicates that interest has stayed roughly even with the original, accounting for rising ticket prices and the fact that the sequel is in 3-D and enjoyed premium pricing in some theaters.
Unlike "Toy Story 3," which drew audiences of all types, "Cars 2" was primarily driven by families with children under 12, according to exit polls. Those who came disagreed with critics and liked the movie, giving it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That leaves little reason to doubt that, like most Pixar movies, "Cars 2" should enjoy a long box-office life and exceed $200 million at the domestic box office.
Overseas, it opened to $42.9 million in 18 foreign markets, marking the biggest ever Pixar openings in Russia and Brazil and second highest ever in Mexico, behind only "Toy Story 3." The film, which features a globe-spanning story, is now certain to exceed the $217.9 million international total of the first "Cars."