Toon is safely into gear, but lags Pixar's race leaders

TOKYO – Pixar’s “Cars” drove off smoothly, but did not exactly burn rubber in Japan, its first major Asian playdate.

Opening on Saturday, “Cars” grossed a solid but unspectacular Y379 million ($3.33 million) on 347,000 admissions on its first weekend in Japan, where it opened on 644 screens.

That’s a few lengths behind “The Incredibles,” which completed its opening weekend lap with $6.57 million from 689 screens, and off the pace compared with race leader “Finding Nemo,” which drove off with $9.82 million from 720 screens.

Distrib Buena Vista is accordingly aiming for the $35 million B.O. mark when the pic finally passes the chequered flag. “Incredibles” finished with $46 million and “Nemo” $96 million — the biggest Pixar hit in Japan.

Although the target aud is essentially the same as Pixar’s pace-setters, Japanese fans know little or nothing about the NASCAR boom that helped fuel the pic’s B.O. in the US. “People here are more into Formula 1 racing,” a Buena Vista spokesman said. The pic pulled in mainly kids and their families on its opening weekend, with 94% of the prints being sub-titled for the under-12 demo.

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