Brave Box OfficeWith $66.7M in domestic ticket sales, the weekend was “good, but not Pixar great,” Cowen and Co analyst Doug Creutz says this morning. Even though the film will be profitable, “we remain concerned that the creative direction of Pixar may be wobbling as Brave is now the second consecutive film to receive less-than-rave reviews,” he adds. Brave‘s 74% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes makes it one of just three Pixar releases to fall below 90%. “While it may have been easy to write-off Cars 2 as a toy marketing campaign gone wrong, the fact that Pixar has released a creatively ‘average’ original film is of incrementally more concern,” Creutz says. He estimates that theaters here sold about 8M tickets for Brave, which is comparable to other recent Pixar films but is “well below” the levels for films released between 1999-2006. “Given the price Disney paid for Pixar, and the importance of Pixar as an engine of creative content for the company, we take the risk of erosion of Pixar’s creative greatness very seriously.”

Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett also expected more. He predicted that Brave would open domestically at $81M, which would have set a record at Pixar for a non-sequel and would have put the film on a trajectory to generate $260M here. He notes this morning that the film “missed our ambitious outlook” and reduced his domestic forecast for the film to $254M. He adds that the $20.2M box office for DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted “suggests no impact from Brave.”

But Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker was pleased. She says the film beat her expectation of $63M. Disney shares are down 1.7% in early trading, roughly in line with the overall market.