fans want a box-office joyride this weekend.
The Pixar-produced film
is scheduled to open in theaters Friday evening. The film is the first Pixar title released since the animation studio's May 5 acquisition by Burbank, Calif.-based Disney -- though
was on the assembly line long before Bob Iger and Steve Jobs agreed to their $6.4 billion merger.
The release of
is a watershed event because Disney's studio division, unlike the rest of the company, could use a little tune-up. Disney shares have risen 22% this year amid strong results at ABC, ESPN and the namesake theme parks. But Iger agreed to buy Pixar in large measure because he doubted Disney's own animation efforts.
So, Wall Street will be watching closely to see if
can keep up with the fast start that other Pixar films have has at the box office. It won't be easy.
together have made just under $1.5 billion in worldwide box office alone. That eye-popping figure excludes the company's take from DVD sales, pay TV and so on. Now Wall Street is expecting
to at least match those films coming out of the gate.
"We project that
will exceed $70mm of US box office during its opening weekend," writes Soleil analyst Laura Martin, who rates the stock a buy. "By comparison, Pixar's previous two animated films,
, had opening weekends of $70.3 million and $70.5 million, respectively. Our DIS estimates embed approximately $300 million at the US box office and $700 million worldwide for
Merrill's Jessica Reif Cohen writes, however, that expectations for the film are, potentially, too high. While Merrill expects the movie to hit $70 million in its opening weekend, Cohen currently estimates the film will make $270 million domestically and says there are "several factors that could make achieving a domestic box office above $250 million somewhat difficult." Merrill does business with Disney.
For starters, Cohen says the film appears to target boys. This focus may cut out some of the young girls who flocked to previous Pixar films. Additionally, "recent trends suggest increasing compression of box office receipts in the first weeks of release," Cohen writes, suggesting that even a $70 million opening weekend may not lead to the $300 million domestic payday Wall Street is looking for.
upside also may be limited by a host of big releases in coming weeks, including Warner Brothers'
in two weeks.
So, even if
screeches out of the gate red hot, it won't be till next month that investors will truly have a feel for how Pixar's latest project is faring.