Can 'Finding Nemo' Save The Drowning Box Office?

By: Ryan J. Downey, MTV News Email
By: Ryan J. Downey, MTV News Email

It's going to be the early 2000s all over again at the box-office.

Disney is putting "Finding Nemo," the fifth in a string of classics from Pixar Animation, back in theaters in 3-D. The 2003 fish tale will swim toward audiences just as another entry in the "Resident Evil" franchise, which began in 2002, arrives.

The "Nemo" re-release and "Resident Evil: Retribution" follow on the heels of the worst weekend at the box office since the one following 9/11. A limited IMAX re-release of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" made more money per-screen than wide releases like Bradley Cooper's "The Words" and future Superman Henry Cavill's "The Cold Light of Day."

Industry experts blamed a lack of quality new releases on last weekend's poor grosses, pointing out that the $22 million "Contagion" was able to make last year despite similar competition from the kickoff of football season and students heading back to school. Box-office watchers expect a close race this weekend between "Finding Nemo 3D" and "Resident Evil: Retribution."

" 'Finding Nemo' is the highest-grossing Pixar film outside of 'Toy Story 3,'" pointed out Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst with Exhibitor Relations Company. "Disney has proven time and again that their titles are evergreen at the box office — even before this wave of 3-D re-releases, the Mouse House would routinely bring their films back into theaters."

"Finding Nemo 3D" follows similar re-releases of "Beauty in the Beast" and "The Lion King." Bock predicted that it will top the box office with $25 million, while the fifth "Resident Evil" movie will follow behind with $23 million. However, MovieFanatic.com's Joel Amos gave a slight edge to "Resident Evil."

"It'll be a close race," MTV Next Movie's Kevin Polowy said. "I see 'Nemo' swimming closer to the haul of 'Lion King 3D,' which was about $30 million, than the less successful 3-D re-release of 'Beauty and the Beast,' which made $17 million.

"The numbers from the previous 'Resident Evil' movies say there won't be much of a dip," he added. "These sequels average about $24 million opening weekend. The last one was the highest grossing ever, with $26 million."

All of the box-office experts contacted by MTV News this week agreed that the video game-based franchise is far from over; the studio has at least one more planned. "This certainly isn't the last we'll see of 'Resident Evil' or Milla Jovovich, as she is a rare commodity indeed, joining Angelina Jolie as one of the only two bankable female action stars in Hollywood," said Bock.

The "Resident Evil" franchise is helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson. He is not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson, whose "The Master," opening in limited release this weekend. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix could see some nominations come awards season, but the box office potential is riskier.

"Word on the street is that 'The Master' is a bit too obtuse, a bit too art-house, and that never bodes well for a long box-office run," Bock said. "It will certainly blow the roofs off in terms of per-theater average this weekend, but with Weinstein Company likely touting 'Killing Me Softly,' 'The Silver Linings Playbook' and 'Django Unchained' for top-tier Oscar campaigns, we likely won't see Paul Thomas Anderson snag a Best Picture Oscar this go-round like he did for 'There Will Be Blood.'"

Amos saw the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival and said, "It's one of those films where the quality of the performances eclipses the overall quality of the film." He also predicted strong per-theater averages, but little more.

As for the well-reviewed ensemble comedy "10 Years," which Amos called "a charming little movie," despite featuring Channing Tatum, expectations are quite low.

"It would be a massive success to earn a million for each of those years," Polowy joked.


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