“Monsters University” (AP Photo/Disney-Pixar)
by Sandy Cohen
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Turns out zombies and Superman are no match for monsters.
Disney’s “Monsters University” is the weekend box-office winner, according to studio estimates released Sunday. The animated family film, which reunites stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman and their characters from the 2001 hit “Monsters, Inc.,” debuted in first place with $82 million, beating out swarming zombies in “World War Z” and Superman himself in “Man of Steel.”
“The diversity of this weekend is part of what makes this business so great,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution. “It’s a really extraordinary weekend for the industry.”
Especially for “Monsters University,” Pixar’s 14th consecutive film to open in first place. Such expectations of excellence put a “healthy pressure” on filmmakers, Hollis said: “To deliver that kind of quality consistently is a differentiator in the marketplace.”
Still, the film exceeded studio expectations with its domestic totals, he said.
Paramount’s Brad Pitt zombie romp overcame critical advance publicity to open in second place with $66 million. Media reports months ahead of the film’s opening chronicled its problems, including a revamped ending that delayed its release.
“What ‘World War Z’ proves is that all the negative backstory that can be thrown at a movie doesn’t matter if the movie’s good,” said Paul Dergarabedian of box-office tracker Hollywood.com. “I don’t think the audience cares one lick if they had to reshoot the ending if they like the ending and like the movie.”
The success of the film means it could be a franchise in the making.
“It’s the biggest live-action original opening since ‘Avatar,'” said Don Harris, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “(It’s) Brad Pitt’s biggest opening ever, and in terms of Paramount’s recent history, it ranks behind ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Transformers’ as the third largest potential franchise opening in the history of the company.”
Warner Bros. “Man of Steel” was third at the box office, adding another $41.2 million to its coffers and bringing its domestic ticket sales over $210 million in just the second week of release.
The Sony comedy “This Is the End,” which stars Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill as versions of themselves trapped in a mansion during the apocalypse, finished in fourth place.
Summit Entertainment’s magic-heist thriller “Now You See Me” held onto fifth place in its fourth week in theaters.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.
1. “Monsters University,” $82 million.
2. “World War Z,” $66 million.
3. “Man of Steel,” $41.2 million.
4. “This Is the End,” $13 million.
5. “Now You See Me,” $7.87 million.
6. “Fast & Furious 6,” $4.7 million.
7. “The Internship,” $3.43 million.
8. “The Purge,” $3.41 million.
9. “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” $3 million.
10. “Iron Man 3,” $2.2 million.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/APSandy .
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.