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‘The Good Dinosaur’: Pixar May Suffer First Loss at Box Office

“The Good Dinosaur” is shaping up to be a novelty. After 16 films, including such classics as “Toy Story” and “Wall-E,” the story of a young Apatosaurus’ quest to reunite with his family is shaping up to be Pixar’s first box office failure.

With a production budget of $200 million and roughly $150 million spent on marketing, industry analysts and executives say that Pixar and its parent company Disney must make $500 million to break even theatrically. Currently, the film has made $131.3 million globally and is showing signs of fading fast. At this point, many project that “The Good Dinosaur” will be lucky to crack the $400 million mark. That would make it the lowest grossing Pixar film since “A Bug’s Life” made $363.4 million worldwide in 1998.

“It’s not resonating like a typical Pixar film,” said Erik Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “It’s on a path where they’re going to need home entertainment to drive profitability. Usually with Pixar, by the time they’ve gone through the first [release] window, they’re in the black.”

Domestically, the film is losing steam. After opening to $39.1 million in its initial weekend, “The Good Dinosaur” fell more than 60% in its sophomore weekend to $15.5 million. That’s a steep drop for a Pixar release — the company’s films usually see their opening numbers slide by less than 50% in their second weekends.

“It’s a pretty bad fade compared to other Pixar releases,” said Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities. “It’s certainly disappointing.”

The hope is that the film will stick around through the Christmas holidays when its major competition for the family audience will be “Alvin and the Chipmunks The Road Chip,” which debuts on Dec. 18.

Of course, “The Good Dinosaur’s” global rollout isn’t over. There are still major markets left to open, including Japan, Brazil, and Korea, but the film is now widely available. Through Sunday, it had debuted in 59% of international markets. China, the world’s second largest market for film, could be a financial boon, but “The Good Dinosaur” has yet to score a release date in the People’s Republic and it’s unclear if it will screen there.

Even if the picture does perform poorly theatrically, Disney could make up some ground in merchandising and consumer products. It may also benefit from home entertainment sales.

Regardless, it’s still odd to see Pixar and Disney have to scramble to push a film into the black, but there’s been something ill-fated about “The Good Dinosaur” since its inception. The picture’s release date was pushed back by two years, and the production nearly derailed at one point. In 2013, original director Bob Peterson was removed over creative differences. He was replaced by Peter Sohn and the story underwent a major overhaul. Because of the delays, this marks the first year in the company’s history that Pixar released two films, the other being last summer’s “Inside Out,” which amassed over $850 million worldwide.

In some respects, the extra time paid off for “The Good Dinosaur.” Critically, the film has been positively reviewed and its A CinemaScore means that audiences have enjoyed it. That said, the film has not received the kind of rapturous response that “Inside Out” or “Up” have enjoyed. Pixar may be getting penalized for releasing a film that’s merely good as opposed to revolutionary.

The studio may also be feeling the pinch from the increased competition in the animation space. In recent years that sector was dominated by Disney and DreamWorks Animation, but now every major studio has an animation division, and rivals like Universal and Fox have scored with their “Despicable Me” and “Ice Age” franchises.

Few would quibble with Pixar’s legacy, however. Over the twenty years that it has spent making theatrical releases the studio has made a series of acclaimed films about everything from a superhero family to an octogenarian in a balloon house and been rewarded for its creative daring at the box office.

“When one out of every 16 films doesn’t live up to expectations, that’s about as good a track record as any one has in this industry,” said Handler.

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