If you think you're experiencing déjà vu, don't worry. Nearly every summer sees one weekend where a high-profile animated flick goes up against a would-be live-action blockbuster. That kind of strategic counter-programming has worked well for duos such as 2008's Wall-E & Wanted and 2011's The Hangover Part II & Kung Fu Panda 2.
Conversely, it doesn't always work: see the disappointing performance of last year's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter when it opened against Pixar's Brave. Ditto for 2010 when Toy Story 3's monster numbers overshadowed the disastrous Jonah Hex.
The pendulum may be swinging back in favor of two successes coming to fruition, though. 2013's key June match-up arrives with Pixar's Monsters University and Brad Pitt's World War Z debuting on Friday, June 21. Our five-day tracking period four weeks out from their openings indicates big potential.
Twitter activity for Monsters University came in a massive 478 percent ahead of last year's Brave at the same time. The anticipated sequel also ran 209 percent ahead of Pixar's biggest opener ever, Toy Story 3 ($110.3 million), and 987 percent ahead of Kung Fu Panda 2. The continuing expansion of Twitter's user base means that statistic isn't necessarily indicative of another Pixar record opening, but it goes to show how much chatter the Internet is creating over Monsters University.
Monsters University: 24,455 tweets
Ice Age: Continental Drift: 4,030 tweets
Brave: 4,228 tweets
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: 1,881 tweets
Kung Fu Panda 2: 2,249 tweets
Toy Story 3: 7,912 tweets
Meanwhile, signs are also positive for World War Z as its tweet level blew past Rise of the Planet of the Apes by 422 percent. Battleship may also be a fair comparison when considering the cautious (if not outright pessimistic) online buzz for both "adaptations" (World War Z's activity didn't pick up until very recently). That said, please note that Battleship's identical numbers below were inflated by an overseas release in April last year.
World War Z: 17,008 tweets
Resident Evil: Retribution: 2,333 tweets
Battleship: 17,658 tweets
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 3,261 tweets
Over on Facebook, Monsters University is blowing away all comparison flicks. We've left Brave off due to the fact it was an original film with no built-in pre-release fan base.
Monsters University: 12.07 million fans
Ice Age: Continental Drift: 3.79 million fans
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: 2.04 million fans
Kung Fu Panda 2: 3.36 million fans
Toy Story 3: 0.73 million fans
However, World War Z still has some work to do on the world's largest social networking site. We've excluded Resident Evil here and included Roland Emmerich's 2012 instead.
World War Z: 0.16 million fans
Battleship: 0.23 million fans
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 0.04 million fans
2012: 0.30 million fans
Lastly, Flixster delivers similar results for both titles. Monsters University has a 50 percent higher anticipation level than Brave, while World War Z has a noticeable leg up on Battleship.
Monsters University: 69,127 anticipating voters (24 days before release)
Ice Age: Continental Drift: 19,359 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Brave: 45,983 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: 29,486 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Kung Fu Panda 2: 32,760 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
World War Z: 71,802 anticipating voters (24 days before release)
Resident Evil: Retribution: 20,930 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Battleship: 63,704 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 23,623 anticipating voters (1 day before release)
Monsters University's positive word of mouth out of its CinemaCon screening in April was good news for prospects among young adults, but that crowd will have other options in the market. While a Toy Story 3 opening seems unlikely, the short run time and comedic nature of the G-rated sequel should appeal strongly to families and crowds of all ages. Will the "prequel curse" and looming Despicable Me 2 ultimately overshadow it, though?
While World War Z has a bit more work ahead of it to avoid being hampered by mixed early buzz, it's becoming clear that interest from average moviegoers is increasing thanks to Brad Pitt and the current zombie genre love affair among our culture. Comparisons to Will Smith's I Am Legend could also be made, but the crowded summer market is a major challenge for Pitt's apocalyptic effort. One key factor will be how moviegoers respond to Man of Steel, opening one week before.
The BoxOffice team is currently forecasting (as of May 28) a $75 million opening weekend / $260 million domestic cume for Monsters University, and a $40 million opening weekend / $105 million domestic cume for World War Z. We'll continue updating those figures in the weeks ahead.
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The Monsters University trailer:
The World War Z trailer: