"Wall-E" charts new territory for Disney-Pixar
By Gina Keating
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disney-Pixar blasts off into uncharted territory with Friday's release of animated film "Wall-E," a space adventure mixing an unusual love story with somber messages about the future of Earth and humankind.
The film features dystopian landscapes, social commentary and a lack of conventional dialogue that are rare under the Walt Disney Co banner, but it sticks to Pixar's basic themes of love, loyalty and friendship.
Still, the sober tone and odd love-story between robots has prompted concerns that the "Wall-E" box office may not compensate for Disney's other big summer release, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," whose $259 million box office take has lagged forecasts so far.
"Investors have been wary of 'Wall-E's' box office potential given Pixar's risky bet on an offbeat main character, who rarely speaks during the film," Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield said in a note to clients this week.
A solid performance by "Wall-E" could boost Disney's results in upcoming quarters, in which the company faces tough comparisons with 2007 hits "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ($961 million worldwide) and "Ratatouille" ($621 million) in theaters and DVD frames.
While Greenfield noted Wall Street concern, he added that "Wall-E" had been well-received in early screenings, and he pegged the film's ultimate global box office take at $500 million to $600 million. He also predicted it also would be a "solid contributor" to DVD and consumer products sales.
The movie will debut in more than 3,900 U.S. theaters on Friday and roll out around the world through December.
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