Way to go Nemo!

“Nemo” Sinks Simba as Top ‘Toon
Something fishy’s going on at the box office.
It’s only been nine weeks since audiences first found Finding Nemo, but already the Disney-Pixar joint has officially hooked the title of the highest-grossing ‘toon of all time from Disney’s The Lion King, according to box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.
The spunky G-rated underwater adventure reeled in $4.39 million over the weekend, bringing its total North American take to $313.1 million, surpassing The Lion King’s $312.9 million in domestic ticket sales generated when that film was released in 1994.
“I don’t think anyone expected this to happen, since The Lion King has held this distinction for so long and deservedly so,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations. “It’s a milestone.”
And what’s extraordinary is how much faster Nemo managed to reach those numbers, especially considering its stars–Albert Brooks, Willem Dafoe, Ellen DeGeneres and Allison Janney–are hardly marquee types.
“It’s the coolest G-rated movie ever,” added Dergarabedian. “This is a movie everybody can get behind and is appropriate for all audiences. Any audience can see this movie…[and] it’s benefiting from a year where people are looking for some quality films.”
Swimming into theaters May 30, the computer-animated fish flick netted $70 million its opening weekend, the best ever debut for a ‘toon. Nemo’s been packing ’em in like sardines and drowning rivals ever since.
Just look at what the little clown fish and pals did to DreamWorks’ Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
Despite featuring the vocal talent of Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the sailor ‘toon grossed a paltry $6.9 million after opening over the July 4 holiday, but failed to come anywhere close to Nemo’s $11 million catch that weekend.
“We’re just thrilled,” Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook tells the Los Angeles Times. “It’s going to be the biggest animated movie of all time, not only domestically but around the world.”
The Lion King took more than six months after its June ’94 premiere to reach its tally. Simba & Co’s initial run lasted three and a half months and a gross of $267 million. But it didn’t actually hit the $312.9 million mark until Disney decided to rerelease the African-set tale for a second 17-week run the following November.
That tally also excludes the additional $16 million made when the Mouse House released an Imax version of The Lion King last Christmas (counting those numbers, Simba technically retains his box-office crown with $328 million in the bank). The numbers also don’t take into consideration the price of tickets, which have gone up considerably since The Lion King lorded over theaters.
But no matter, says Dergarabedian, who notes that while “Lion King has probably sold more tickets, Nemo is still playing and far from done, so we don’t know what it’s ultimately going to do in terms of box office.”
Every one of the Disney-Pixar collaborations√≥Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life and Monster’s Inc.–have opened at number one and toppped $100 million in domestic ticket sales, an impressive track record.
With its can’t-miss reputation, Pixar is currently seeking a bigger slice of profits from Disney now that the two companies are renegotiating their existing deal. Under that agreement, the two companies share marketing and production costs and split profits 50-50. However, the Mouse House ends up taking home substantially more because Pixar pays a 12.5 percent distribution fee. Disney also gets extra revenue for marketing and distributing VHS and DVD versions of the ‘toons.
Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs is looking to strike a new deal that would give his company ownership of all its films while paying a distribution fee of less than 10 percent to Disney. Such a move has been similarly compared to the handsome contract George Lucas struck with 20th Century Fox over the new Star Wars movies.
Under its agreement with Disney, Pixar has two more ‘toons in the pipeline–The Incredibles, due out in 2004, and Cars, scheduled for release in 2005.