Bart's Big Box-Office Bucks

Homer Simpson is probably shouting "woo-hoo!" right about now. That's because News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) The Simpsons Movie hit the top of the multiplex charts over the weekend.

Sorry, Adam Sandler -- while your movie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, distributed by General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) Universal asset, was top dog last weekend, it was no match for Bart and his animated gang. The Simpsons Movie is estimated to have grossed about $71.9 million over the three-day timeframe at the domestic marketplace, according to Boxofficemojo.com. That's a pretty wide margin over the $19 million credited to Chuck and Larry.

It's also impressive when you consider that News Corp.'s nemesis in animation, Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , couldn't leverage the brand power of its Pixar studio to full advantage to post a similar showing for its latest computer-animated story, Ratatouille. That picture brought in about $47 million during its debut.

For News Corp., this is a great achievement. Sure, a big opening was expected because of the unquestionably large demand that's only been growing over the years for a celluloid Simpsons. Nevertheless, now that the gross has validated the theory, News Corp. knows that the denizens of Springfield represent a truly powerful brand. If the media execs at the conglomerate are smart, they'll devise as many schemes as possible to further increase the merchandising program. They have the opportunity now -- from video games to fast-food tie-ins, a la the current Burger King (NYSE: BKC  ) promotion, we're talking major potential.

In addition to devotees, I'm sure the film captured a lot of moviegoers who are completely new to the Simpsons phenomenon. That could spell good news for the Fox network and its owned-and-operated TV stations. In addition, the movie execs at Fox obviously know they have a new franchise on their hands -- the sky just might be the limit in terms of new silver-screen Simpsons adventures. And just think -- News Corp. can continue the franchise without having to spend a lot of money developing novel CGI technologies. Boxofficemojo.com pegs the budget for Ratatouille at $150 million; The Simpsons is said to have cost half as much. It's got to be a wonderful feeling to have an animated brand that can be executed in a more traditional manner.

Kudos to News Corp. for a successful Simpsons release. It picked the right time period -- Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) Transformers movies have already exhausted some of their novelty, so the film could fill a nice little vacuum while having a good chunk of summer left to earn a few bucks. To all those who didn't think The Simpsons Movie would do as well as it did, Nelson the bully has two words for you -- ha ha!  

The Fool loves the multiplex:

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney and General Electric. As of this writing, he was ranked 6,867 out of more than 60,000 participants in Motley Fool CAPS. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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