The Walt Disney Company (DIS), Time Warner Inc (TWX): “Monsters University” Keeps Pixar Hit Streak Alive; Rakes in $82 Million

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2013 is shaping up to be a very good year for Hollywood. Early estimates show Monsters University set to take in $82 million at the box office this weekend. That left the film well clear of a surprisingly strong performance from Brad Pitt’s World War Z, which collected $66 million. Last week’s winner, Man of Steel eased back 65% from its performance last weekend; posting about $41.2 million in box office receipts over the weekend.

Overall, the weekend box office is 43% above the same weekend last year.

Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX)

Pixar’s Winning Streak Survives

Monsters University is Pixar’s 14th major film, and maintains the studio’s record of all its features hitting number one on their opening weekend. While the film scored a 78% on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, below Monster‘s score of 96%, audiences liked the film enough to award it an ‘A’ CinemaScore. The opening weekend total is also Pixar’s second largest total ever, behind Toy Story 3‘s $110 million.

The excellent early results from Monsters University, both financially and from audience reviews, is a boon for parent company The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). Pixar will release a new film next year titled The Good Dinosaur and has two films in the pipeline for 2015, including a sequel to Finding Nemo. With Finding Nemo having grossed $339 million domestically back in 2003 and remaining one of the most beloved films in Pixar’s library, 2015 could be a studio’s most successful year yet.

Zombies remain hot

Paramount, a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA), was right to expect the worst from World War Z. Despite the presence of a strong leading man in Brad Pitt and the ability to ride a zombie phenomenon that’s led to Walking Dead becoming the break-out hit of cable TV, the film has long looked troubled. After executives first screened the movie, they famously deemed the last third of the movie so incoherent (and bleak) that the entire last 40 minutes of the film was reshot. The end result was terrible buzz around the film and a production budget reportedly clocking in around $190 million.

Yet, reviews of the new ending were far more forgiving and a last minute marketing push also helped the film’s fortune. The $66 million the film took in this weekend domestically is well above earlier forecasts which had pegged the film in the $40 million range. Add in international markets and the film’s box office rises to $112 million. At the end of the day, the film’s performance is more a sigh of relief for its financial backers and also evidence the craze around zombies remains very hot.

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