Can ‘Finding Dory’ beat ‘Captain America: Civil War’ at the summer box office?

06.24.16 1 year ago

Day after day since opening a week ago, Finding Dory has been absolutely dominating the box office and setting record after record.

Here are some of the records the Pixar sequel has blown out of the water:

Highest opening weekend for an animated film at the domestic box office, beating Shrek the Third“s $135.1 million

Second-biggest June opening weekend ever in the U.S., behind only last year”s Jurassic World

Largest preview night for an animated film (Thursday), surpassing Minions” $9.2 million

Fastest animated movie to cross $200 million at the domestic box office, in seven days, beating Minions” and Toy Story 3“s nine days

So is it a sure thing that Dory will be the biggest movie of the summer? Can it surpass Captain America: Civil War? And does Dory have a shot at becoming the top-grossing film of the entire year?

For HitFix”s dive into those questions with Roth Cornet, Chris Eggertsen, and myself, check out the video below, where you can watch me get some groans out Chris with my puns (the groans: well-deserved; the puns: not for a second regretted).

So, yes, Finding Dory will quite likely take the summer box office crown from its Disney cousin, Captain America: Civil War (summer in movie-land being the first weekend of May through Labor Day weekend). But we”ll have a better idea of whether it will surpass Civil War“s $1.1 billion-plus take after we”ve seen this weekend”s numbers.

The real uncertainty here is China. As David Mumpower of Box Office Prophets told me in an email, “China is the most critical international market today.”

Yes, Finding Dory is breaking records domestically, and it topped the foreign box office last weekend too, but look at that crucial China territory on its own: Captain America: Civil War grossed $93.6 million in its first three days in China, while Finding Dory earned a much smaller $17.7 million. Though that tally represents a new record for a Pixar movie opening in China, Dory could ultimately lag a bit behind the latest MCU entry if Chinese audiences don”t come out in greater numbers to watch Marlin, Nemo, Dory, and co.

Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru tells me that Finding Dory should gross more than Civil War. Bruce Nash of The Numbers, meanwhile, said via email that ahead of having this weekend”s results, he sees Dory as having a 50/50 chance of surpassing Civil War.

No other summer movie this year can be expected to amass more than the $1 billion-plus haul Civil War already has and Finding Dory is sure to reach – not Independence Day: Resurgence (HitFix”s Chris Eggertsen breaks down the alien invasion sequel”s meager prospects here) nor Star Trek Beyond (the first two entries in J.J. Abrams” rebooted Star Trek films did well, but neither earned more than $475 million at the worldwide box office). The movie that may actually come closest to Dory and Civil War is another animated flick, The Secret Life of Pets, which opens on July 8.

Not only is Finding Dory well on its way to becoming the fifth animated film to ever earn more than $1 billion (more about that in my breakdown of animated movies at the 2016 box office here), it may also help Disney become the first studio to release five $1 billion-plus movies in a single year, which would be unprecedented. The House of Mouse already has Captain America: Civil War and Zootopia in the billion-dollar club, while Rogue One will near-certainly earn more than $1 billion, and Jon Favreau”s Jungle Book re-telling – which currently stands at $923.5 million worldwide  may trickle over the $1 billion mark. Disney”s acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm are paying off in a big way this year.

As for making very early predictions on what will be the top-earner of 2016, Dory has a chance. (If it does top the year, it will be the first non-Toy Story Pixar film ever to do so.) But among the box office experts I consulted, the most common title predicted to take that top 2016 spot is the aforementioned Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

2016 will certainly continue to be an interesting year for box office watchers, with follow-ups to two of the absolute biggest franchises still on the way: Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Those films are tied to Star Wars and Harry Potter, but will their spin-off/stand-alone status without the original casts keep them from box office glory?

“I'm probably the most optimistic analyst with regards to Fantastic Beasts,” Mumpower told me, pointing to Harry Potter“s consistently strong numbers overseas as an indication that the tale of Newt Scamander could be the biggest movie of 2016.

The newest in the saga of a galaxy far, far away, meanwhile, isn't expected to make more than Force Awakens, the top performer of all time at the domestic box office and no. 3 of all time worldwide, but Rogue One doesn”t need to make anywhere near its predecessor's massive $2 billion-plus haul worldwide to become 2016″s highest grossing film. The fact is, Rogue One could earn $900 million less than The Force Awakens worldwide and still reach the No. 1 spot for the year (assuming Finding Dory doesn't perform even better than expected).

From Finding Dory“s immediate success, it would be safe to conclude that Pixar's sequel binge won't be stopping any time soon. Four of the animation studio”s last seven films since 2010 have been sequels, and three of the four movies on their current release slate are sequels (the lone original film on that list is the Día de los Muertos-themed Coco, set for November 2017). Nostalgia, even for a movie released just 13 years ago, is a strong lure for audiences, especially when it involves putting a much-beloved blue tang in a starring role.

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