Box Office: ‘Finding Dory’ Swims to Record $9.2 Million on Thursday Night

Finding Dory” has opened with a record-breaking $9.2 million on Thursday night.

The Disney/Pixar sequel had the biggest Thursday preview debut of all time for an animated film, easily topping “Minions” ($6.2 million) and “Despicable Me 2” ($4.7 million) as well as Diseny-Pixar hits “Toy Story 3” ($4 million) and “Inside Out” ($3.7 million). It also more than double the Thursday night preview launch of Disney’s “The Jungle Book” at $4.2 million.

Action-comedy “Central Intelligence,” teaming Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, launched with a solid $1.8 million during Thursday previews.

“Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” will easily top $100 million, and may debut with more than $115 million in 4,305 North American theaters this weekend. That would establish a new opening record for a Disney/Pixar release, topping “Toy Story 3’s” $110 million launch in 2010.

“Dory” may even challenge 2007’s “Shrek the Third,” which currently holds the record for the largest North American opening weekend for an animated movie with $121.6 million. Last year’s “Minions” is in second at $115.7 million.

“Finding Nemo,” the story of a fish separated from his father, grossed $936.7 million globally and won an Oscar for best animated feature. The sequel reunites original director Andrew Stanton with stars Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres. Stanton’s co-director Angus MacLane is making his filmmaking debut.

The new adventure finds Dory, a blue tang who suffers from short-term memory loss, scouring the ocean in search of her long-lost parents. Disney did not provide a budget, but Pixar films typically carry price tags between $175 million to $200 million.

Finding Dory” is enjoying a 95% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, signaling that reviews are almost universally positive. It should also jolt the summer box office, which has declined 18% from last summer and seen disappointing returns from “Warcraft” and sequels such as “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” in recent weeks.

Online ticket service Fandango reported this week that “Finding Dory” had becomes its top preseller among all animated movies.

“Central Intelligence” is projected to open to $30 million at 3,508 sites, a sturdy debut that should underline the appeal of Johnson and Hart. In the comedy realm, few actors have been as consistent draws as Hart, who can claim “The Wedding Ringer,” “Get Hard” and “Ride Along” among his hits. At the same time, Johnson has emerged as one of the most bankable action headliners with “San Andreas” and “Furious 7.”

Both are indefatigable promoters, prized by studios for going anywhere to talk up their new films.

In “Central Intelligence,” Johnson plays a high-school geek who grows up to be a crack CIA agent. He enlists his high-school buddy Hart to help him on a mission. New Line will release the film domestically and Universal will handle its international roll out. The two studios co-financed the $50 million film.

“Central Intelligence” reviews have been mixed with a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

New Line’s second weekend of “The Conjuring 2” should finish a strong third with more than $20 million following its $40.4 million launch last weekend. The horror sequel hit $53.2 million at the domestic box office on Wednesday.

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