Box office champ "Cars 2" crunches critics

Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:04pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Cars 2," a Pixar sequel judged by critics to be the worst movie produced by the Disney-owned animation studio, sped to the front of the pack at the weekend box office in North America.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the massive merchandising opportunity earned about $68 million during its first three days of release across the United States and Canada.

Heading into the weekend, both studio executives at Pixar's Walt Disney Co parent and industry pundits had doubted "Cars 2" would exceed the $60 million start for the first "Cars" in 2006.

Indeed by one major benchmark, it did fall short since the inflation-adjusted opening for "Cars" was estimated at $72 million by analysts at Box Office Mojo. The sequel also had the benefit of premium pricing for 3-D engagements.

The only other new release in the top 10, the raunchy Cameron Diaz comedy "Bad Teacher," opened at No. 2 with a better than expected $31 million. Last weekend's champion, the underwhelming superhero film "Green Lantern," slid to No. 3 with $18.4 million.

Total ticket sales were up about seven percent from the year-ago period at about $176 million, according to the box office division at


Critics, who usually fall over themselves to praise Pixar movies, lambasted "Cars 2." The Wall Street Journal said the film "seldom gets beyond mediocrity," while the Chicago Tribune said it was "virtually joke-free." By contrast, Pixar's "Toy Story 3," which opened to $110 million a year ago, was among the best reviewed films of 2010.

The target audience of young boys and their parents was clearly revved up by "Cars 2," giving the film a bullish "A-minus" in exit polling conducted by CinemaScore.   Continued...

<p>Actors Bonnie Hunt (L-R), Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy and Emily Mortimer, who all voice characters of the film " Cars 2", arrive for the premiere of the movie in Hollywood, California, June 18, 2011. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>