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Brave Bombs. Is Pixar Fading?

Brave didn’t “bomb bomb”, as Whoopi Goldberg would say, but it’s in fourth place after four weeks, completely crushed by Ice Age 4. It took in less money than Madagascar 4 and will likely pass Ratatouille, but not Wall-E. And if Brave doesn’t pass Ratatouille, it will be one of Pixar’s worst performing movies.

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Is it fair to call Brave a bomb? The movie is listed as having a 185 million dollar budget and has made 195 million domestic. Counting the movie theater share and promotional expenses, it may have actually bombed. The foreign box office will probably see to it that it doesn’t lose money, but Brave doesn’t seem all that popular overseas either.

Cars 2, released last year, was the worst performing Pixar movie in a while. It ranked so poorly that it was up there with early Pixar movies like A Bug’s Life and Toy Story. Brave looks like it underperformed almost as badly as Cars 2, which didn’t even make back its budget domestically.

The last Pixar movie to make back its budget in the domestic box office was Ratatouille and that was only because it spent only 150 million making the movie, instead of 200 million for Cars 2 and 185 million for Brave.

No original non-sequel Pixar movie has managed to break the 300 million dollar barrier since Finding Nemo. There is some good news. The Incredibles and Up both performed well. Much better than signature movies like Cars and Wall-E. But Cars and Wall-E are easy to merchandise. So is Monsters Inc, which is why Monsters University is getting made.

Pixar has become Disney. It’s looking at movies as vehicles for merchandising. Brave was its try at doing a Disney princess movie, which is a big part of the merchandising cash flow. Pixar has become so Disney that it did a Scottish Mulan. But Pixar is not very good at being Disney. It’s good at making idiosyncratic films Up. It did okay at merchandising with Monsters Inc and Toy Story, but the kind of calculation that resulted in Cars and Brave backfired.

Pixar still has some of its rep, but if it keeps doing merchandising cash-in movies like Cars and Brave, it won’t have it for long.

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