Click image for larger view.It seems like just about anything coming out of Pixar and DreamWork's animation division is going to draw a huge audience. I guess animation is the only family-friendly genre left these days. On one side you've got what looked like a really cute and fun toon, and on the other, a movie that sold itself as a brainless "look, Angelina Jolie is in this!" movie. Seriously, toons get a bad rep for not being intellectually deep or having involved and interesting plots, but that's not the case anymore, and maybe it never was.
Snobbish tendencies aside, Wanted's only draw was that Jolie was in it, and there were a lot of fancy camera shots that made trailers look more like a resume/demo reel than a preview meant to make us want to watch this movie. So who won?
Judging by simple box office returns, Wall*E came out on top with $62.5 million for the weekend against Wanted's $51.1m. As I tend to do, I'll point out that although Wall*E was released in 3,900 theaters to Wanted's nearly 3,200, and if you compare the per-theater average, Wanted actually did better business ($16,100 per) than did Wall*E ($15,656). The former simply had fewer opportunities.
Now that doesn't mean Wanted would have topped the charts if it had opened in more theaters, since you can't really know what each movie's potential was and whether it reached it or not. Fewer theaters is going to result in a higher average by default, but by how much and what that means is anybodies guess. It's still worth noting because the two films were not on equal footing, and that does matter.
On the other hand, a more quantifiable metric is comparing the first weekend haul to the films budget which will give you a better measure of initial success.
Wanted Budget: $75 million Premier: $51.1m
Wall*E Budget: $180 million Perrier: $62.5m
Wall*E may have taken the top spot by about $11 million, but it also cost 3.5x as the runner-up did. And since I'm talking about that, how crazy is it that animated features are getting close to the $200 million territory? I realize that CGI costs a lot of money -- even though CGI was supposed to make special effects cheaper -- but seriously, Wanted was a budget burner with a bank breaking star like Jolie and a crapton of physical effects, and yet it still managed to cost 1/3rd what Wall*E did, even though it didn't have any sets, cameras, or big name actors.
Call me crazy, but I think Pixar may be going overboard and coming dangerously close to putting out features that are well viewed, maybe even award-winning -- there is talk of Wall*E getting a nod for Best Picture -- that don't even make back their costs.
Then again, being a box office failure is kind of a prerequisite to getting the Best Picture Oscar.
Regardless, call it for Wall*E if you want, I think Wanted kicked its ass by every other metric you can imagine. I guess second place really is the new first, when first costs three times as much to achieve.