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Pixar’s “Threequel” is a Summer Success Story

June 21, 2010

By John C.

Since the Summer movie season began, people, mostly critics, have been commenting on the lack of originality, with most of the movies being sequels or based on pre-existing characters.  And with some of these blockbusters underperforming, namely Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the end of movie-going is what they once again predicted.

It just so happens that one of the best reviewed movie of the year so far, Toy Story 3, is one of this Summer’s biggest releases, and is also a second sequel.  This past weekend, the film predictably opened on top.  Grossing $110 Million, it came within an inch of being the highest opening ever for an animated film, becoming the biggest opening ever for a Pixar film, or for any film to open in June.  You didn’t have to be an economist to know that Toy Story 3 wasn’t going to be a flop.

A financial flop is when the movie in question fails to make back production and marketing costs, and a critical flop is when the movie fails to meet good reviews.  Technically Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time would be considered a flop, and it is unfortunate that more audiences didn’t go see it.  It’s by no stretch a great movie, but for what it is, it was a genuinely good one.  But audiences just weren’t looking for that type of period epic.

I think why this Summer has been considered a failure is partly because in previous years the season has started with a film that audiences and critics unanimously agree is the one to see.  Summer ‘08 kicked off with Iron Man, and ‘09 kicked off with Star Trek.  This Summer kicked off with Iron Man 2, a moderate success in both fields, but it feels almost as if that film exists in a season long past.  A lot hinged on Robin Hood, the opener for the Cannes film festival, and yes, that film was a flop, but I never saw it as one to be a runaway hit.

There have been many success stories, including Shrek Forever After and The Karate Kid.  But the three movies that this Summer’s success will depend on are Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and Inception.  Two will be successful because they feature a known brand, and the other will be a hit not because the movie is a brand, but because they are able to cash in on a previous hit from the same filmmaker.  Two years ago, Christopher Nolan blew audiences away with The Dark Knight, and this year is releasing Inception.  A movie of which little plot is known, but is being sold on a previous success.

When all is said and done, this Summer will have seen some very big hits, but they will have all come around the mid-point, rather than starting at the beginning.  It’s not that audiences haven’t been going to the movies, it’s just that all the audiences haven’t necessasrily been seeing the same movie, as we’ve been getting a lot of opening weekend’s that are more evenly split over several titles.  This year the critical and audience favourite came a bit late, that’s all.  It’s almost as if the real Summer movie season only really kicked off around the time that it actually became the Summer season.  Or, perhaps all along, everyone was just saving their money for Toy Story 3.

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