She might not know where her home is at, but she certainly didn't have any trouble "finding" her way into the hearts of audiences EVERYWHERE!

That's right, for the eleventh week this year Disney has landed a film at the top of the Box Office, and this time it's with their highly anticipated Pixar sequel, Finding Dory! Dory shattered expectations across the board, scooping up $135 million from domestic box office sales alone. Now while the reported budget for the film was $200 million, meaning this film made back 67.5% of its budget and the original made back 74% opening weekend, Finding Dory opened to a much larger acclaim than many - including myself - would have expected. If you remember just last week we were talking about how sequels aren't doing amazingly well this year and it's starting to look like audiences are growing tired of the forced nostalgia and poorly thought out storylines. But then here comes Dory, with a cleverly thought out backstory transformed into a mesmerising and breathtaking adventure into the underwater life of three fish we have grown to love.

I'm not sure why I assumed Finding Dory wouldn't be as good as it ended up being. Possibly because Cars 2 felt so forced and Disney has a reputation of cranking out sequels even though there's no true point to them other than the fact they are cash cows for memorabilia and the sort. But John Lasseter (Executive Producer), and Co-directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane have not disappointed with this one. Within the first five minutes I was almost in tears. A twenty-six year old man sitting in the theatre with his friends was nearly brought to tears not just once but 7 times. Finding Dory is everything that a sequel should strive to be. Take a subplot or unresolved backstory begun or hinted at in the first film, elaborate and find something that everyone can resonate with (not just the cult following), throw in small yet profound references that make the viewer realize the true gravity of something they simply laughed at in the original (there will forever be tears now when I hear "just keep swimming"), and wrap it up with gorgeous imagery and moving music that connect the head and the heart every every moviegoer in that room. Thank you Pixar. Thank you for still proving that profound storytelling can trump the all too easy desire to pump out simple to digest content only for the sake of making a buck.

With an opening of $135 million Finding Dory is now the largest opening weekend for an animated feature, as well as largest single day and opening day for an animated film, grossing an estimated $54.9 million between Friday and Thursday sales ($9.2 million). It also averaged $31,634 per theatre, making it the largest per theatre average for a wide opening animated release, whose record was previously held by Shrek the Third which averaged $29,507 in 2007. Internationally the film also brought in an additional $50 million breaking a couple more records as well:

  • Largest Pixar opening ever in China ($17.5 million)
  • Biggest Disney/Pixar opening weekend ever in Australia ($7.6 million)

Coming in second this weekend with an exceptionally impressive take home of $35.5 million domestically was Warner Bros. Central Intelligence starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. The audience demographic this weekend for Central Intelligence was split right down the middle, with 49% of moviegoers being males and 51% being females, and scored a solid "A-" on Cinemascore. Critics seem to be less in love with it, giving it a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 52% on Metacritic. But while that might be the case the film's production budget was $50 million, so it's safe to assume that the film will make back its entire budget on domestic sales alone by the end of next weekend.

This bodes particularly well for Hart as this is now technically his second largest opening film, topping both Ride Along 2 and his 2015 Will Ferrell Get Hard comedy. For Johnson this is kinda just a drop in the bucket given his starring roles in such films like Furious 7 and San Andreas. 

This weekend also saw the dethroning of The Conjuring 2 to spot number 3, but I wouldn't be too scared - they just passed $71 million in domestic sales. So while the film took a steeper decline (61.5%) between its first and second weekends than either the The Conjuring or Annabelle did, this film has made $170+ million thanks to combined global box office revenue. And come on, did anyone really think the Conjuring wasn't going to get cast down by a group of cute, funny fish? No, and I don't think the studio expected anything less either. With that all said I'm predicting that this James Wan film will go on to bring in about $250-$300 million worldwide before it's run in theatres has come to an end.

Taking another crushing defeat this week is Universal's Warcraft which dropped sharp 70% in box office sales it's second weekend out. With adding only $7.2 million to its domestic box office revenue (bringing its total domestic cum to $38.4 million - less than a quarter still its production budget) the crazy thing to keep in mind is that foreign box office sales are through the roof. It has made $250+ million in international theatres, even though the gaming culture that this film is clearly geared towards is located here in the states. I'm at a loss with this one friends. The global market continues to eat this film up even though domestically it's flopping and it's flopping hard. Check out Box Office Mojo for a list of all the negative domestic records it set this weekend, while keeping in mind that there will very obviously be a sequel to this one... just maybe not as advertised here in the US.

Looking ahead to next weekend is release of the huge 20-year-in-the-making sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence set to release in over 3,900 theatres. Where this film will land in terms of overall performance is a little difficult to say. Sure, the original Independence day was HUGE and is certainly a cult classic for many americans, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn't have nearly the following or the franchise base as films like Jurassic World which opened last year to the tune of $200 million - and looking even more recently, it doesn't have the franchise power (or nostalgia factor I'm willing to argue) as that of Finding Dory. 

With the release of Free State of Jones, The Shallows, and the Neon Demon next week as well, Independence Day's base audience is going to be splintered a bit. If it's lucky It'll open to the tune of $50 million, which by all accounts wouldn't be a great opening weekend since that's a good $30 million short of half its budget and the original made $50 million opening weekend - remember, that was 20 years ago. It's possible it could do better, but it certainly won't be taking the top spot next week. Even if Dory takes a 50% decline in sales, which isn't likely given that an animated film with so much acclaim as this would normally only decline between 30-45%, that would still place it somewhere in the $65 to $70 million dollar range. I think it's safe to assume it could make even as much as $80 million this coming weekend.

Everything else will just be cleaning up scraps off the floor left over from these two. Regardless though, this weekend go out and help support your local theatre economy and the film industry as a whole by watching a movie!

-Matthew Miller

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