Debut reclaims tooner crown for a three-day bow

Talk about a well-named movie.

“Monster’s, Inc.” was a box-office monster this weekend, and its feature-tooner record $63.5 million in estimated three-day grosses bodes big things for the corporate bottom line of co-producers Disney and Pixar.

“This is a movie that played to everybody — family, adults and people on dates,” Mouse House marketing boss Oren Aviv said.

“Monsters” debut reclaims tooner crown for a three-day bow. Rival distrib DreamWorks had grabbed those laurels back in May when it opened smash laffer “Shrek” at $42.3 million.

“Monsters” perf — the fourth-best three-day opening ever — builds on a well-established creative partnership and follows previous Disney/Pixar tooner hits “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2″ and “A Bug’s Life.” A market share also-ran so far in 2001, Disney gains new traction in annual B.O. competish headed into the end-of -year stretch.

It also helps distrib get a jump on some looming holiday titles. Those include family adventure “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” set for Nov. 16.

Two other wide releases also opened big this sesh: Sony/Revolution Studios’ Jet Li actioner “The One” grossed an estimated $20 million — far more than anticipated — and Paramount’s “Domestic Disturbance” thriller rang up an estimated $14.5 million.

Big openers boosted industrywide B.O. to $150 million this weekend, a whopping 43% improvement over the same frame a year ago, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. In a year-to-date comparison, 2001 is now almost 10% ahead of the same period of last year at $6.58 billion.

“It’s an enormously great start to the holiday season,” EDI prexy Tom Borys said. “There is now unbounded optimism that we’re going to finish the year not just by breaking a record but by smashing one.”

It’s all but certain ’01 grosses will beat last year’s record, Borys said, and 1999′s all-time admissions mark may fall as well. “You’ve got to feel good about the chances for that,” he said.

The marketing campaign for “Monsters” — which had an estimated production cost of $90 million-$100 million — kicked off almost two months ago, at least a week or two earlier than for the typical wide release, Disney’s Aviv said. Rivals noted the Mouse House campaign was not only early but also well executed and pervasive.

“They were everywhere,” one rival exec observed.

Just what exhibs needed

The size of the “Monsters” bow was evident as early as Friday, when word of big early grosses spread among attendees at the ShowEast exhibition trade show in Orlando.

“The industry needed this,” said Marvin Troutman, prexy at the four-venue Pennsylvania circuit Cinema Centers. “It’s a real shot in the arm.”

Mouse execs agreed the boffo perf takes on special significance coming amid industry uncertainties in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It really felt like the box office was waiting for a picture that would appeal to everybody, and this certainly was it,” Aviv said.

Sony marketing and distrib topper Jeff Blake said “The One” was helped by pic’s appeal to auds broader than Li’s chopsocky fan base.

“The key was that it wasn’t just a narrow, action film,” Blake said. “I think the PG-13 rating was (also) valuable.”

Negative cost is an estimated $49 million on pic, which features splashy visual effects.

Par said “Domestic Disturbance,” which skewed 58% female and 73% over 25, delivered roughly on target with expectations. An estimated $53 million production, studio’s cost is only about a quarter of that figure after Par sold off foreign rights in several territories.

Among soph-sesh titles, Universal’s “K-PAX” grossed $10.7 million in fourth place after a modest 38% drop, and Warner Bros.’ “Thirteen Ghosts” scared up almost $8 million in fifth place in a 48% fall-off. New Line’s “Bones” dropped from the top 10 with $1.4 million, or a full 50% less than over its bow last weekend.

Auds toast French pic

Among specialty bows, Miramax’s “Amelie” took in an estimated $140,000 from three Gotham and L.A. theaters for an eye-popping $46,600 per venue. French-language pic expands to 50 engagements in 40 markets on Friday.

USA Films’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There” grossed an estimated $673,440 in 38 opening playdates, repping an impressive $17,722 per location. Coen brothers’ pic expands into a dozen markets next weekend.

New Line’s “Life As a House” grossed $674,000 in expanding 59 theaters to 88. Cume runs to $1.7 million with frame’s $7,640 per-venue perf, as distrib continues to mount a platformed rollout for Kevin Kline starrer.

Paramount Classics’ “Focus” broadened 30 locations to 32 and grossed $110,000, or $3,437 per site. Now sitting on a $180,119 cume, “Focus” widens to top-25 markets Friday.

Fox Searchlight’s animated “Waking Life” expanded to 31 theaters to 57 to gross $273,000, or $4,790 per venue. Richard Linklater tooner expands into 120 theaters by Nov. 16.

20th Century Fox offered 500 sneaks of its upcoming “Shallow Hal” laffer on Friday. Farrelly brothers’ pic, which bows wide next weekend, drew 90%-95% sell-outs, said Rick Myerson, exec veep distrib. Auds were evenly split among males and femmes, with patrons mostly aged 18 to 35.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more