Pixar toon tracks record box office

After less than a month at the multiplexes, Disney-Pixar’s 3-D toon “Up” has enough lift to likely become the second-highest-grossing Pixar title at the domestic B.O. after “Finding Nemo.”

Through Sunday, “Up’s” domestic total was $187.4 million — the second best of any summer film to date. Par’s “Star Trek” has cumed $231.9 million.

“Up’s” boffo run is the latest example of how 3-D runs can boost a film’s bottom line through higher ticket prices. The film’s 3-D runs make up only 40% of the total screen count, yet they contribute 60% of the gross.

In the spring, DreamWorks Animation released its first 3-D tentpole, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which grossed $195.2 million domestically and $169.4 million more at the international box office.

The biggest challenge “Up” faces will come July 1 when Fox’s 3-D toon “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” debuts. “Ice Age 3″ is almost certain to grab all the 3-D screens away from “Up,” considering the continued shortage of such screens. “Up” will be able to keep its 2-D runs, however.

Chuck Viane, Disney’s prexy of domestic distribution, said 3-D has been a boon to “Up,” but he added that the foundation of any successful pic is a good story.

“3-D enhances the storytelling, and thereby, the run,” Viane said.

For the weekend, “Up” grossed $30.7 million, only $2 million shy of Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures’ R-rated comedy “The Hangover.” “Up” was in its third frame, “Hangover” its second.

At the rate it’s going, “Up” will soon surpass the $206.4 million grossed by Pixar’s “Ratatouille” in summer 2007, and the $223.8 million grossed domestically by Pixar’s “Wall-E” last summer.

“Finding Nemo,” released in 2003, cumed $339.7 million domestically. Next-best Pixar grosser is “The Incredibles” at $261.4 million.

Based on its performance, box office observers now believe “Up” has every chance of surpassing “Incredibles.”

Still very early in its run overseas, “Up” has grossed $26.6 million at the international B.O.

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