Pixar’s ‘Cars’ Should Take Flag in Second Lap
By Brian Fuson
LOS ANGELES — While four wide releases hit theaters on Friday, the weekend movie scene is shaping up as one for car enthusiasts of all ages with two racing-themed films likely parked among the top box-office slots when the dust settles.
Disney’s "Cars" takes its second lap at the North American cineplex circuit this weekend, and if the performance of its past three Pixar-made films is any indication, the G-rated computer-animated comedy should hold up in the top spot.
The average second-weekend dropoff in ticket receipts for its three Pixar predecessors — "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo" and Monsters, Inc.," — was just 30 percent.
"Cars" debuted at No. 1 last week with a gross of $60.1 million, a solid opening by nearly any standard but only the fourth best for Pixar. Among all animated releases, however, it was the seventh biggest on record.
The John Lasseter-directed "Cars," featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt, has collected about $84 million heading into the weekend.
The cinematic tale of a talking race car named Lightning McQueen garnered mostly positive reviews and generated exceptional scores in exit polls, so word-of-mouth should be favorable.
The most direct competition to "Cars" is the CG-animated "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" from 20th Century Fox.
The other auto-centric feature debuting this weekend is Universal Pictures’ "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift." The hot-rod adventure is the third film in the franchise and hits the streets relying mostly on the concept as there are no name stars in the PG-13 picture. "Tokyo" will be burning rubber in 3,026 theaters.
The first "Fast" movie starred Vin Diesel and was a surprise hit at the box office, opening with $40.1 million and finishing with $144.5 million domestically.
The second, "2 Fast 2 Furious," starred Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson — it bowed with $50.5 million and left theaters with $127.1 million. According to pre-release tracking, the third film does not look to finish anywhere near the first two installments and should land in the second or third spot.
The "Fast and Furious" franchise, which has demonstrated robust returns from ancillary markets, is tracking strongest with young males. Justin Lin directed "Tokyo," which stars Lucas Black, Brian Tee and Sung Kang.
Paramount Pictures’ "Nacho Libre" also is going after a young audience and will be racing "Tokyo" for the second spot. "Nacho" is a PG-rated comedy starring Jack Black and directed by Jared Hess, who also helmed Fox Searchlight’s "Napoleon Dynamite," the little indie film that grossed a big $44.5 million. "Nacho" will arrive in an ultrawide 3,070 theaters.
Nickelodeon Movies produced the film, about a monk in Mexico who finds he has a gift for wrestling and dons a disguise as a Mexican luchador to try to raise money to feed the orphans in his care.
Black’s last film in a starring role was "School of Rock," which debuted with $19.6 million.
"Garfield" will play at 2,945 locations in its debut weekend and should curl up in the fourth slot at the box office. The PG-rated family comedy, which features the voice of Bill Murray in the title role, was directed by Tim Hill. Davis Entertainment produced the sequel, a take on "The Prince and the Pauper," with Garfield traveling to London.
The first "Garfield" film opened in 2004 with $21.7 million and went on to gross $75.4 million. But with "Cars" in the marketplace, the sequel about the orange furball may have a difficult time opening at that level.
Warner Bros. Pictures’ "The Lake House" is the weekend’s only other wide release, with 2,645 locales, and looks headed for fifth place.
The film is a PG-rated romantic drama starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Alejandro Agresti directs "House," a remake of a Korean film about a young man and woman who share a house but at different times, and who exchange notes and attempt to meet.