Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Pixar still has the Midas touch. Toy Story 3 raked in a whopping $109 million in domestic ticket sales over the weekend, breaking studio records for the family entertainment giant. Only DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE: DWA ) Shrek the Third had a bigger animated opening, and that flick tanked quickly on lukewarm word of mouth.
That won't be the case with Disney. An eye-popping 98% of film critics tracked by Rotten Tomatoes are recommending the computer-rendered feature.
This is naturally great news for Disney, which, along with the cinematic success of Iron Man 2 (released by rival Paramount Pictures, but produced by Disney-owned Marvel) and Alice in Wonderland, now has the three largest theatrical openings this year.
There are other winners here, naturally.
Theater owners that have been upgrading their screens to offer premium-priced 3-D screenings are vindicated, for now. The success of IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX ) installations and the higher ticket prices for 3-D releases depend on a steady stream of popular blockbusters. Disney certainly hasn't let the exhibitors down.
A film about toys is also a bonanza for toymakers, and not just for the original Pixar playthings that will fatten Disney's pockets. Mattel's (NYSE: MAT ) Barbie and Hasbro's (NYSE: HAS ) Mr. Potato Head play prominent roles in the movie. Mattel will probably be the bigger beneficiary of the two, since Barbie is given a more expanded role this time around, and her boy toy Ken is finally introduced.
The ironic winner here, though, is DreamWorks Animation. Shrek Forever After was a disappointment last month. It may wind up as the least lucrative of the franchise's four installments. The fourth film's fizzle fueled fears that Shrek's poor showing was a bad omen for animated sequels. Toy Story 3's success should calm those concerns. That's welcome news for DreamWorks Animation, which aims to put out a sequel for a popular franchise every year.
Woody and Buzz are back, and after a slow start to the telltale summer season, they're just what the multiplex needed.
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