Giving a much-needed jolt to the summer box office, “Finding Dory” is dominating moviegoing with a record-breaking $140 million opening weekend, estimates showed Saturday.
Disney/Pixar’s animated sequel, playing in 4,305 North American theaters, grossed a stunning $55 million on its opening day Friday.
“Finding Dory” will finish the frame with four times the total of action-comedy “Central Intelligence,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, which is launching with a solid $34 million at 3,508 sites this weekend.
“Dory” will demolish the nine-year-old record for best domestic animated opening, set by “Shrek the Third” in 2007 with $121.6 million. “Minions” was the second largest at $115.7 million, followed by Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” with $110 million.
At $140 million, “Dory” will rank as the 17th largest domestic opener of all time and the third largest of 2016. Marvel/Disney’s “Captain America: Civil War” had the year’s highest-grossing launch so far with $179 million, the fifth-largest debut of all time.
Recent estimates had placed the opening weekend for “Dory,” with Ellen DeGeneres voicing the forgetful tropical fish, in the $115 million range. So its apparent over-performance is a tonic to the movie business — which has slumped 18 percent during the summer season in the wake of expensive tentpoles such as “Warcraft,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” delivering drab domestic returns.
Early indications show that Disney has a blockbuster that may perform as well as 2003’s original “Finding Nemo,” the fish tale of a father looking for his son, which grossed $936.7 million globally and won the Academy Award for best animated feature. “Finding Dory” will double the $70 million opening weekend of “Finding Nemo.”
The sequel includes original director Andrew Stanton with DeGeneres returning to voice Dory along with Albert Brooks voicing her friend Marlin. Stanton’s co-director Angus MacLane is making his filmmaking debut.
The new story centers on Dory scouring the ocean in search of her long-lost parents. Disney did not provide a budget, but Pixar films typically carry price tags between $175 million and $200 million.
“Finding Dory” is enjoying a 95 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Online ticket service Fandango reported this week that “Finding Dory” had become its top pre-selling animated movie ever. DeGeneres has been celebrating the movie this week on her TV talk show with “Finding Dory Week.”
“Central Intelligence” is also making a sturdy debut with a $13 million opening day on Friday. Johnson and Hart are paired for the first time, playing high school friends who have become a crack CIA agent and an accountant.
New Line is handling the release domestically and Universal will handle it internationally, with the studios co-financing the $50 million film. “Central Intelligence” reviews have been mostly positive with a 67 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
New Line’s second weekend of “The Conjuring 2” should finish a strong third with $20 million following its $40.4 million launch last weekend. The moderately priced horror sequel will finish the weekend with around $76 million domestically.
Lionsgate’s second weekend of “Now You See Me 2” is headed for a fourth-place finish with about $9 million, down 59 percent. Universal/Legendary’s “Warcraft” will follow follow in fifth with about $5.9 million — a plunge of 76 percent from its launch weekend.
By contrast, “Warcraft” has shown plenty of box office power outside the U.S. with about $280 million, including an impressive $156 million in China.