Entertainment Industry

Category: Pixar Animation Studios

ABC and motion picture academy unveil updated Oscars app

Oscars app for iPhone

Behind-the-scenes moments of the 84th Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 26 will once again be coming to multiple screens near you.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, together with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Television Group, have updated the Oscars app they introduced last awards season that brings video from the red carpet, backstage and the Governors Ball to portable Apple Inc. devices.

Tuesday's announcement coincides with this morning's unveiling of the 2012 Oscar nominations.

Enhanced features include new ways to experience Hollywood's biggest event of the year from the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Viewers will have two ways to view the goings on: in a "watch" mode that provides a guided multi-camera tour of the Oscars, or a "direct" mode that enables viewers to choose their own camera angle.

One pre-show component offers access to awards buzz on Twitter and video from last year's show and original video, plus photos.

"Our team really listened to what fans had to say last year, and made a huge effort to build on the things that worked and make them even better," Karin Gilford, senior vice president of digital media for ABC.com, said in a statement.

The Oscars app is an attempt to hold onto viewers who already use a tablet, smartphone or laptop computer to check their email, surf the Web or post to social media sites while watching TV shows. Its content is designed to complement the live telecast.

ABC sister division Walt Disney Studios is competing for best picture in this year's Oscar race with two movies it distributed for DreamWorks, "War Horse" and "The Help." 

However, Disney's Pixar Animation Studios did not receive a best animated feature nomination for "Cars 2" -- the first time an eligible Pixar movie has been snubbed by the Academy since the animation category was created in 2001.

Pixar's "La Luna" did garner a best animated short film nomination Tuesday.

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Merchandise sales drive Pixar's 'Cars' franchise

Oscars nominations 2012: 'Artist,' Scorsese's 'Hugo' shine brightest

ABC, Motion Picture Academy offer backstage view of Oscars for a fee

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Image: The Oscars app. Credit: Disney/ABC Television Group

Movie Projector: 'Cars 2' expected to sputter to No. 1

Cars2

"Cars 2" will get a checkered flag by the end of this box-office weekend, but it won't be travelling in the fast lane.

The latest release from Walt Disney Co.-owned Pixar Animation Studios will continue the studio's unblemished record of No. 1 openings, but is only expected to debut with between $50 million and $55 million worth of tickets, according to people who have seen pre-release surveys. That would be the second-lowest opening in the last decade for a Pixar movie, ahead of only Ratatouille's" $47 million in 2007.

If predictions prove true, the "Cars" sequel will even come in behind the $60.1-million opening of the original in 2006, despite five years of ticket-price inflation and the fact that the new movie is in 3-D, for which moviegoers pay a premium.

With a $462-million worldwide gross, the first "Cars" was one of the lowest box-office performers for Pixar. However, the brand went on to become a merchandise bonanza for Disney, generating global retail sales of close to $10 billion.

Families with young boys who scooped up those products are expected to be the primary audience this weekend for "Cars 2," which comes outfitted with an even bigger merchandising and licensing blitz of about 300 new toys.

Other Pixar movies with less-than-impressive openings, such as "Ratatouille," went on to gross well over $200 million domestically, thanks to strong word of mouth.

However, "Cars 2" is the first Pixar movie to receive predominantly negative reviews, which may mean it may have a short box-office life. The movie cost Disney about $200 million to make and tens of millions more to market around the world.

The movie is Pixar's second of three sequels, following last year's hit “Toy Story 3” and before 2013’s “Monsters Inc.” follow-up. In a research note released Thursday, Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz expressed concern that an emphasis on sequels "could be diluting Pixar's creative edge" given the poor critical reaction to "Cars 2."

Unlike the first "Cars," which took place on the all-American Route 66, the sequel has a globe-spanning story line. Disney is hoping that means the new film will gross much more internationally than the original's $217.8 million. This weekend, it opens in 18 foreign markets, including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.

BadTeacher The only other new movie to open nationwide this weekend is the low-budget Cameron Diaz comedy "Bad Teacher," which is generating the most interest among women under 25. It should launch to about $25 million, a solid start because the R-rated film, which costars Justin Timberlake and Jason Segal, cost Sony Pictures only $19 million to produce.

"Bad Teacher" may be in a tight race for No. 2 at the box office with "Green Lantern," which should take in between $20 million and $25 million if it sees a typical second-weekend drop after its $53.2-million opening.

In limited release, Summit Entertainment is opening the Mexican immigrant story "A Better Life" at two theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York City.

-- Ben Fritz

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Photo: A scene from "Cars 2." Credit: Pixar Animation Studios. Bottom photo: Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake in "Bad Teacher." Credit: Gemma LaMana / Sony Pictures.

For the record: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that Pixar's "Monsters Inc." sequel will be released in 2012.

'Toy Story 3' a flopski in Russia

ToyStory3 Russians love Shrek. And Russians love the acorn-obsessed squirrel Scrat from "Ice Age." But Russians aren't showing a lot of love for Buzz and Woody.

"Toy Story 3," released June 18, has been a blockbuster success in the U.S. and most of the foreign countries where it has opened, racking up $244 million at the box office domestically and more than $100 million overseas, including more than $34 million in Mexico.

But the Pixar Animation Studios sequel has posted surprisingly low box-office results in Russia, one of the hottest international markets for movies, especially for animated films. The critically acclaimed, computer animation sequel has generated only $4.8 million in ticket sales through its first 10 days at Russian theaters, according to three people who have seen the figures.

By contrast, "Shrek Forever After" grossed $37.7 million in its first 10 days in Russia in May. Last summer, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" collected about $35 million over the same period.

People familiar with the Russian movie market point to a variety of factors that have hurt the movie, including unseasonably warm weather that sent many children fleeing the oppressive heat of cities to stay with relatives in the cooler countryside. But perhaps the crucial reason, they say, is that Russians are unfamiliar with the beloved story and characters because the first two "Toy Story" movies were released in the 1990s, before the country's recent explosion in theater growth.

"People here didn't grow up seeing the first two movies, so they think a film about toys is just for young children," said Paul Heth, chief executive of Russian theater chain Kinescope. "Everyone in the market here is a bit shocked at what the film has done, given its quality."

A spokesman for distributor Walt Disney Studios wouldn't confirm Russian box office totals for "Toy Story 3," and declined to comment.

Russia is still a relatively small movie market, with only about 2,100 screens for a population of 142 million people. The U.S. has nearly 40,000 screens for 307 million people. But after being decimated following the fall of the Soviet Union, the theatrical movie business has grown 20-fold since 2000, according to the site kinobusiness.com, to $736 million in 2009.

Disney has never had much luck with Pixar films in Russia, though "Toy Story 3" has fared even worse than average. 2009's "Up" and 2008's "Wall-E" both grossed about $12 million in the country. 

"Shrek Forever After" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" each collected about $45 million at the box office before their runs ended in Russia.

"Disney overall has done well in this market," said Heth, pointing to a strong $21-million run for "Prince of Persia." "But Pixar has never managed to break out here."

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from "Toy Story 3." Credit: Disney/Pixar

'Toy Story 3' is Pixar's biggest opening, but will it be Pixar's most successful movie?

TS3b "Toy Story 3" had the biggest opening day of all time for an animated film -- but not the biggest-ever opening weekend.

Within a few weeks, a comparison of its $41-million Friday to its estimated $109-million weekend could be a meaningless blip in the context of an awesome box-office run. Or it could be the first indication of a relatively short life in theaters for a Pixar movie.

In the past, Pixar pictures ultimately have grossed, on average, slightly more than four times their opening-weekend take in the U.S. and Canada. If the same holds true for "Toy Story 3," it will end up at about $450 million. That's more than $100 million higher than "Finding Nemo," previously the biggest Pixar movie, and just a bit above the most successful animated movie of all time, "Shrek 2," which finished its domestic run at $441 million (grosses are not adjusted for inflation).

All indications are that word-of-mouth, usually the most important driver of a movie's box-office longevity, is fantastic. The average audience grade was A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, and reviews were uniformly positive. Studies of Twitter traffic conducted by Walt Disney Studios indicated that enthusiasm among some fans was so high that they had already seen "Toy Story 3" twice.

"I believe this will ultimately not only be the highest opening for a Pixar film, but the highest total gross," said Chuck Viane, Disney president of distribution.

The reason the record opening day for "Toy Story 3" didn't translate to a record weekend, however, was that ticket sales declined from Friday to Saturday, which was unusual for an animated family film. Much of that can be attributed to the nearly $4 million that the movie grossed in midnight shows early Friday morning. It's extremely rare for an animated picture to get any money from late-night screenings, but "Toy Story 3" drew a significant crowd of adult fans loyal to the 15-year-old franchise.

Even without the midnight shows, however, the $37-million Saturday gross of "Toy Story 3" was essentially flat compared with Friday. Every previous Pixar movie save one has seen a rise in ticket sales on its second day in theaters. The exception, "Wall-E," ultimately grossed 3 1/2 times its opening-weekend take -- an excellent ratio for most movies but the lowest ever for Pixar.

"Toy Story 3" faces an additional challenge in that it will lose many of its 3-D theaters, which have accounted for about 60% of the movie's opening-weekend gross, in two weeks when "The Last Airbender" opens -- and even more theaters the week after that, when "Despicable Me" debuts.

Of course, it's normal for sequels to well-known series to garner a higher proportion of their box-office revenue on opening weekend, since audiences know what they're getting and don't need to wait to hear the buzz. Even if "Toy Story 3" has a short run for a Pixar film, it's virtually certain to gross more than $300 million in the U.S. and Canada and about the same amount or more overseas, making it a success by any measure.

For more on the opening on "Toy Story 3," "Jonah Hex" and "Cyrus," see our initial box office post.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office this weekend according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

Continue reading »

Opening Day: `Up' flies to $21.4 million, `Hell' digs in for $6.4 million

Up

"Up," the latest from Disney/Pixar, sailed to $21.4 million at the box office on Friday. That's just under the $23.2 million that the last Pixar flick -- "Wall-E" -- took in on its opening day last year en route to a $63 million first weekend.

The strong Friday means "Up" will definitely finish its first weekend looking more like "Wall-E" than Pixar's "Ratatouille," which opened at $47 million. There were projections that "Up" could hit as high as $65 million this weekend, but those might be a tad too optimistic. A safer bet would be between $57 million to $60 million. Hardly numbers to sneeze at, however.

The other major movie opening of the weekend, director Sam Raimi's finance-themed horror film "Drag Me to Hell" posted $6.4 million on Friday, which puts it on pace for a respectable $17.5 million, but below industry estimates that pegged it generating $20 million. Last year's horror picture "The Strangers" opened at $21 million.

-- Joe Flint

Movie Projector: 'Up' to soar past $60 million; 'Drag Me to Hell' to open solidly

Upanddown-500

The only question for Disney/Pixar's "Up" is how far its opening weekend gross will fly. The bar is pretty high, given that "Wall-E" opened at $63.1 million last summer on its way to taking in $224 million in domestic box office.

Rival studios are anticipating that "Up" could hit $65 million. Tracking figures are playing it safer, projecting that "Up" will open somewhere between Pixar's "Ratatouille" ($47 million) and "Wall-E." That's like saying the Lakers will score between 80 and 100 points in their next game. 

With a storyline about an old man on the verge of losing his home who responds by filling his house with balloons and flying away, there have been questions about whether young children will embrace the film. But any impact from that will probably be felt after the opening weekend.

The other big opening this weekend -- Sam Raimi's horror film "Drag Me to Hell" -- isn't expected to be a threat to "Up," but should be a solid performer in its own right. The movie, which is distributed by Universal, is targeting an adult audience. Raimi has a strong following and if history is any guide, the movie should open north of $20 million. Last summer's horror flick "The Strangers" opened at $21 million. 

The other big question for the weekend is how "Terminator Salvation" will hold up. The Warner Bros. movie opened to a disappointing $51.9 million over Memorial Day weekend. Star Christian Bale proved capable of being the Dark Knight, but that franchise seems immune to who graces the costume. Apparently that's not the case with "Terminator."

-- Joe Flint

Photo credits: "Up," Disney/Pixar. "Drag Me to Hell," Universal Pictures.

Pixar's John Lasseter unveils 'Tinker Bell,' costly star of new Disney Fairies initiative

Cue the pixie dust.

Walt Disney Animation is taking direct aim at little girls with a business initiative called Disney Fairies whose long-awaited star is finally ready for her small screen debut.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, announced the much delayed "Tinker Bell" DVD on Friday, the first original title in a series of company-wide animation initiatives meant to capitalize on the fairy and princess craze among little girls.

"Tinker Bell," the first character to take wing from the Disney Fairy canon, is scheduled for direct-to-DVD release in late October, after being pushed back a year due to reported production complications. In this particular 2008 incarnation, Tink actually has a voice (actress Mae Whitman, although at one point Disney announced that Brittany Murphy would play Tink), and a lovely pair of iridescent wings:

Word has it that Tinker Bell's wings cost a pretty penny, too. At least $50 million, in addition to a key executive's job, two dozen versions of the script and a dozen different directors, according to Variety.

The female character's success should be an interesting test for Lasseter, whose Pixar animated films over the past decade have largely catered to boys. Consider the upcoming robot tale "Wall-E" (June 27), and earlier blockbusters "Cars," "Bugs," and "Monsters, Inc." Somehow Pixar and parent company Disney have managed to largely overlook a marketplace filled with little girls fixated on princesses and fairies.

Disney Animation hasn't introduced any new animated girl-centric titles and characters -- such as "The Little Mermaid" (1989), Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin" (1992), "Pocahontas" (1995) and "Mulan" (1998) -- in close to a decade. (Even "Enchanted," which was live action, was released just last year.)

But Disney's animated princess hiatus is about to change, both with the so-called Disney Fairies initiative and when Disney Feature Animation releases theatrically "The Princess and the Frog" (Christmas 2009) and "Rapunzel" (Christmas 2010).

Until then, it will be hard for parents to avoid the Disney Fairies juggernaut, which the Walt Disney Company promises to incorporate across its many divisions, including Disney Consumer Products, Disney Publishing, Disney Interactive Studios, Disney on Ice, Disney Parks and Resorts, and Disney Online.

And with that, Disney's finally going full-bore with faith, trust and pixie dust.

-- Sheigh Crabtree

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