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'Monsters University' schools the box office

By Todd Cunningham

Families flocked to "Monsters University" pushing Disney and Pixar's 3D animated movie to $82 million in its debut to capture the U.S. box office crown this weekend, but Brad Pitt's zombie movie nearly stole the show.

Find: What's Monsters University homemade ramen?

The "Monsters U" opening is the 14th consecutive No. 1 debut for Pixar, and is the storied animation unit's second-largest debut weekend ever, behind only the $110 million rung up by "Toy Story 3" in 2010.

Paramount's "World War Z" took in a surprising $66 million in its first three days – about $15 million over analysts' projections – to finish a strong second and cap a remarkable turnaround.

The $190 million-budgeted action thriller was plagued with cost-overruns and expensive re-shoots, including an 11th-hour decision to cook up a new ending. Just two months ago, it was tracking to open at $35 million, but the studio mounted a massive marketing campaign behind it, and days before its debut, analysts had revised their projections up to $50 million.

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Last week's No. 1 movie, "Man of Steel," was third with $41.2 million. The top three films dominated the action, taking in a combined $209 million. The overall box office was up 43 percent from last year, when another Disney-Pixar production, "Brave," led the way with $66 million.

Sony's raunchy comedy, "This is the End," was fourth with $13 million and Summit Entertainment's magic-themed heist thriller "Now You See Me" was fifth with nearly $8 million.

The "Monsters U" audience predictably skewed young, with 60 percent under 25 years of age, and was 56 percent women.  It received an "A" CinemaScore from first-night audiences at its 4,004 theaters (2,907 of which were 3D), and that strong word of mouth contributed to the big turnout on Saturday and Sunday.

Also: What did the critics say?

Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as Mike and Sully in this prequel to Disney's 2001 "Monsters Inc.," which opened to $62 million and went on to bring in $290 million domestically. Dan Scanlon is the director and wrote the screenplay with Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird.

"World War Z" is the biggest box-office opening ever for Pitt, topping the $50.3 million debut of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" in 2005. He stars as a United Nations worker battling a global zombie pandemic in this adaptation of Max Brooks' bestseller, directed by Marc Forster. It received a "B+" CinemaScore from audiences in 3,607 theaters.

"World War Z" bounced back spectacularly from where it was in April. That's when screenwriter Damon Lindelof revealed in a Vanity Fair interview that he'd been called in to write a new ending after the original was scrapped. The thriller also suffered rampant production snafus and budget overruns at its far-flung foreign locations.

That set off a storm of bad buzz, most of which was countered by good reviews (80 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes), a barrage of TV ads and a series of highly publicized personal appearances by Pitt.

Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris said that the actor's efforts went a long way toward erasing any early negativity surrounding the film.

"He went everywhere on behalf of this movie and he worked hard," Harris said. "He was proud of what he did to make this movie the best that it could be, and I think he wanted people to know that."

Pitt's presences no doubt helped the film play broadly, with the crowd at 51 percent women -- high for an action movie, especially with zombies -- and 33 percent under the age of 25.

Pitt's Plan B produced the film, which was co-financed by Skydance Productions, in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' "Man of Steel" raised its domestic total to $210 million. It had a strong Saturday and wound up down 65 percent from its $116 million debut last weekend.

Seth Rogen's R-rated comedy "This Is The End" held well for Sony in its second week, dropping just 37 percent from its opening weekend. It has now taken in nearly $58 million, impressive given its $32 million production budget.

"Now You See Me" is on its way to $100 million. It fell off just 29 percent from last week and its domestic total is now $94.2 million.

The weekend's top 10:
"Monsters University," $82 million
"World War Z," $66 million
"Man of Steel," $41 million
"This is the End," $13 million
"Now You See Me," $7.8 million
"Fast & Furious 6," $4.7 million
"The Internship," $3.4 million
"The Purge," $3.4 million
"Star Trek Into Darkness," $3 million
"Iron Man 3," $2.1 million

More from The Wrap:
Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' $200 Million Production Nightmare Exposed
Summer Box Office Up 13 Percent: How Hollywood's Big Bet Is Paying Off

Jun 23, 2013 2:21PM

MU gets four thumbs up from my eight-year-old and me

Jun 23, 2013 12:40PM
Box office might have been 43% higher than this time last year, but that isn't saying much, since the industry has been taking a dump the last 5 years overall.
Jun 23, 2013 3:25PM
looks like there are a few really good movies for kids this summer!!  YAY!!
Jun 23, 2013 1:08PM
World War Z was actually pretty darn good , except for the absolutely atrocious 3D conversion. It was so bad that I even complained to management.
Jun 23, 2013 1:27PM

Why would they make an ending more faithful to the book when the movie had almost nothing to do with that Masterpiece.  Warning, I may disclose some spoilers so stop reading if you don't want to know:













The idea of making Pitt the "hero" of the movie was laughable at best.  The "cure" was a joke.  I'm guessing it wasn't sitting well with our studios to actually make North Korea (Possibly) and Cuba come out better than the free world.  Anyone catch the major flaws in the movie as far as "transmission" time.  It was 12 seconds and yet, somehow the doctor at the beginning was able to get bit AND make it back to base just in time to turn.  Or the plane crash.  It "miraculously" crashed so close to WHO that it was laughable.  And fast zombies, so boring.  I'm guessing the whole terror NOT in fast moving zombies, but in millions of them coming endlessly to attack was lost on the studios.  The Battle of Yonkers would have been incredible as it showed how useless the current arsenal we use was against zombies.  The battle of Hope would have been a harrowing show how we finally started to turn the tide.  Sadly Hollywood took what could have been an amazing property (guys, see how successful The Walking Dead is with SLOW MOVING ZOMBIES) and screwed it up. 

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