SUNDAY 11 AM, 8TH UPDATE: Summer 2013 keeps sizzling with total domestic moviegoing this weekend around $236M, which is a big +43% over last year. That means 2013 is about to close the gap with 2012 helped by 3 films over $40M through Sunday. Here’s how the box office shaped up for this weekend, according to official numbers. Disney/Pixar’s 3D prequel Monsters University (playing in 4,004 theaters) now has a global total of $136.5M for its first 4 days with an international cume of $54.5M and a domestic cume of $82.0M. Internationally, the G-rated toon opened day and date in 35 territories, though only 6 are key markets (Germany, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Brazil), representing only 48% of potential performance. Pic received a coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore from U.S. audiences to keep the positive social media going. It opened to a gargantuan #1 with $30.5M Friday (including Thursday’s $2.6M late show tally) and $28.8M Saturday. That makes it 2nd highest June animation opening in industry history and Pixar’s second highest opening weekend ever, both behind 2010’s Toy Story 3($110.3M). Yowza! Pic did a solid $2.6M for Thursday’s late shows starting at 8 PM. The prequel maintains Pixar’s perfect record of 14 out of 14 feature releases debuting #1 and also with ‘A-‘ to ‘A+’ CinemaScores. Can’t beat that incredible record of success. Disney as usual pulled out all the marketing stops on its network and cable channels as well as theme parks (“Monstrous Summer”) with a huge social media campaign that included the first-ever in-character Tumblr page from a studio. Audience exit polling showed 44% male/56% female, and 60% aged under 25/40% aged 26 and over.

This is the story of how top Monstropolis scarers Mike and Sulley met as rivals and ultimately became best friends, complete with college humor, heartfelt storytelling, and gorgeous visuals. Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their roles for director Dan Scanlon (who also is credited for the screenplay along with Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird) and producer Kori Rae. Monsters Inc was originally released on November 2, 2001, and opened to a $62.5M weekend. Its all-in domestic was $289.9M and foreign $272.9M for a whopping worldwide cume of $562.8M. Pic wound up nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song “If I Didn’t Have You” which won the Academy Award.

Hollywood (and just about everybody else) thought Paramount’s opening of 3D World War Z (3,607 theaters), co-financed with Skydance Productions  in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films, would flop. Instead, the zombie epic epidemic based on Max Brooks’ plague novel stunned with a $112M worldwide total. Its $66M domestic cume is the the biggest opening for an original live action film since Avatar, according to Paramount. And its $46M international cume represents 25 markets which is only about 30% of the foreign marketplace. Top performers were Korea with $10.3M, UK with $7.1M, and Australia $5.5M.

Placing a much bigger-than-expected #2, pic received a ‘B+’ CinemaScore from U.S. audiences which helped word of mouth so it overperformed with $25.0M Friday and $22.6M Saturday. It even grossed a decent $3.6M in 2,600 screens for Thursday 8 PM previews and midnight late shows. That has Paramount’s moguls giddy with relief after all that pre-release bad buzz for producer and star Brad Pitt an his Plan B banner – especially since the studio claims statistics show only one original live action movie a year opens at $50+M. (“Franchises open bigger but originals play to better multiples as people start discovering them,” one exec tells me.) Paramount actually issued a press release to say this weekend’s opening is the biggest of Brad’s career – but I say not when 2005’s Mr And Mrs Smith ($50.3M) debut is adjusted for inflation and the 2D vs 3D ticket price. Pic also benefitted from a spot-on marketing plan savvy enough to book in advance 2 spots promoting Friday’s official debut during Thursday’s big Miami-San Antonio NBA final game. That became the 2nd most watched series end in pro basketball history. (More WWZ below)

Here and overseas, WWZ was in direct competition with Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ holdover 3D Man Of Steel (4,207 theaters in the widest domestic release) which went into this weekend as still the big #1 leader in the worldwide marketplace. The Superman reboot continues as a super-hit internationally, still #1 internationally even after Superman had to battle the zombies from World War Z through today. MOS broadened out to 52 markets outside of the U.S. and Canada with the Christopher NolanZack SnyderDavid S. GoyerHenry Cavill pic opening in 27 more foreign markets this weekend, including the major countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and China. It’s now amassed an international cume of $188.3M. With $210M from its domestic gross in just 11 days, this third Superman franchise now has a huge worldwide total of $398.3M. That includes nearly $35M on exactly 600 worldwide IMAX screens, including the $3.2M opening weekend in China where IMAX screens represent 12.5% of the country’s movie gross. The pic has played very strong throughout Asia (see Korean poster) and, in China alone, grosses were an outstanding $25.5M from roughly 5,631 screens, taking a lion’s share of the market. Opening day took almost 80% marketshare for Warner Bros’ 2nd highest opening day behind only the Harry Potter finale. “Considering the massive openings last weekend and the hot weather impacting the business in many European markets, the film sustained a reasonable holdover drop of 59%,” Warner Bros said today.

Man Of Steel is currently #3 in North America after doing $12.7M Friday (-71% from a week ago) and +29% for $16.2M Saturday and another huge tally around $41.2M (-65% from a week ago). “We’re in great shape moving into the 4th of July holiday playtime with such an iconic character at the helm,” said Warner Bros Domestic Distribution President Dan Fellman. “Hoping we have a similar result to the strong day we had on Father’s Day.” Overseas, Australia opens on June 27, Brazil July 12, and Japan August 30.

Here’s the Top Ten list based on weekend estimates:

1. Monsters University (Pixar/Disney) NEW [Runs 4,004] G
Friday $30.5M, Saturday $28.8M, Weekend $81.1M
International Cume $54.5M, Worldwide Total $136.5M

2. World War Z (Skydance/Paramount) NEW [Runs 3,607] PG13
Friday $25.0M, Saturday $22.6M, Weekend $66.0M
International Cume $46.0M, Worldwide Total $112.0M

3. Man Of Steel (Legendary/Warner Bros) Week 2 [Runs 4,207] PG13
Friday $12.7M, Saturday $16.2M, Weekend $41.2M (-65%), Cume $209.8M
International Cume $188.3M, Worldwide Total $398.3M

4. This Is The End (Columbia/Sony) Week 2 [Runs 3,055] R
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $4.8M, Weekend $13.0M (-37%), Cume $57.4M

5. Now You See Me (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 4 [Runs 2,823] PG13
Friday $2.4M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7.8M, Cume $94.4M
International Cume $40.0m, Worldwide Total $134.4

6. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) Week 5 [Runs 2,417] PG13
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.8M, Cume $228.4M
International Cume $437.5M, Worldwide Total $665.9M

7. The Purge (Universal) Week 3 [Runs 2,201] R
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.3M, Cume $59.4M
International Cume $8.6m, Worldwide Total $68.0M

8. The Internship (New Regency/Fox) Week 3 [Runs 1,916] PG13
Friday $1.0M, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.3M, Cume $38.3M
International Cume $9.8M, Worldwide Total $48.1M

9. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) Week 6 [Runs 1,565] PG13
Friday $855K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $3.0M, Cume $216.6M
International Cume $213.4M, Worldwide Total $430.0M

10. Iron Man 3 (Marvel/Disney) Week 8 [Runs 924] PG13
Friday $661K, Saturday $843K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $403.1M
International Cume $804.6M, Worldwide Total $1.207B

Frankly, I’ve never found traditional zombies scary – they’re slow, so just outrun them, right? – although World War Z has fast-moving zombies who swarm. But it’s not like lethal lasers are leaping out of their eyes. And these are PG-13 zombies who don’t look much different from George Romero’s 1968 horror classic Night Of The Living Dead or AMC’s Walking Dead. They’re more like the zombies from Dawn Of The Dead and 28 Days Later. These also are effing expensive zombies. Much has been made of the film’s mega-cost: between $220M-$230M brought down to $200M by tax incentives in locations Scotland, Malta, England, and Hungary, or so the studio claims.

Vanity Fair which typically ignores Hollywood moviemaking even did a long feature article about the pic’s budget, plot, and production problems, including director Marc Forster’s revamps and reshoots. There were no less than four writers – Michael Straczynski, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Damon Lindelof, and Drew Goddard – and four producers – besides Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Ian Bryce. Which all prompted Time film critic Richard Corliss to grouse this week, “So they spent a bundle. Doesn’t matter; it’s not your money. Your ticket to this movie, unless you see the 3D version, costs the same as one for a pinchpenny indie film.” Earth to Corliss: Paramount is part of publicly traded Viacom, and shareholders need to know if their money was wasted so they can figure out which bums to blame. Hard to see how this film can earn out. But it won’t be a total write-off like John Carter or Battleshipthanks to steps that Brad Pitt and Paramount took to fix the movie before it came out.

Related: Paramount Out To Prove Its Zombie ‘World War Z’ Doesn’t Stink
Related: ‘World War Z’ Helmer Marc Forster On His Zombie Movie’s Bad Buzz

WWZ‘s TV campaign kicked off with the Super Bowl pre-kick slot. High profile teaser spots unveiled during the Walking Dead finale and Mad Men premiere. The first 2D theatrical teaser trailer debuted in November with Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2. A new 3D trailer hit theatres on March 28th with GI Joe 2, Star Trek 2, and Man of Steel. There were TV tie-ins with Discovery’s Deadliest Catch and History’s Greatest Chaotic Events. A global premiere and concert by Muse was held at London’s Horse Guards grounds at Buckingham Palace in early June complete with a “black” carpet. Brad Pitt surprised fans in 6 cities – Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin, LA and SF – with special screenings over 36 hours. In the final week of release, Pitt was on a “Z” carpet in the middle of NYC Times Square to unveil the film for thousands of people with maximum media coverage. Online, major home page takeovers and #WorldWarZ on Twitter fueled better-than-expected reactions to the film. In the first of its kind campaign with Twitter, a :30 “cliffhanger” spot on-air drove fans to tweet with the hashtag to see an exclusive payoff clip and RSVP to see the movie first.

FRIDAY 4 AM: Newcomer Monsters University wil be an easy #1 and was tracking even bigger than Cars and outselling Brave online and could pull $60M-$75M this weekend. Meanwhile, Paramount keeps using Inception as a good but inexact comp for World War Z because, although the two movies are both originals and summer sci-fi tentpoles, only World War Z was filmed in 3D. With those higher ticket prices, more pressure is on the zombie pic to do better at the domestic box office than Inception‘s $62.7M opening in July 2010. Christopher Nolan’s Inception did nearly a 5x multiple helped by the helmer’s Batman trilogy mega-success. Interesting, because Brad Pitt outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for the movie rights to World War Z. Still, with all kids out of school, and many adults starting vacations, and July 4th weekend fast approaching, it’s likely the movie will do solidly for several weeks but nowhere near a breakout blockbuster. With good early reviews and vastly improved tracking, World War Z just might (emphasis on the word might) overperform despite stiff competition. But the big question mark is all that bad buzz which World War Z endured for six months and how much it will affect filmgoers. Paramount is quick to acknowledge that bad-mouthing has created low expectations and is projecting only mid-$40sM this weekend.

According to, domestic box office advance ticket sales for Man Of Steel accounted for nearly 33% of total daily transactions for Wednesday with Monsters University close behind with 28.2% and World War Z with 14.6%. But Fandango reports those numbers changing day by day: World War Z rose to 25% of sales, and Man Of Steel fell to 19%. In fact, Fandango said WWZ is selling 175% more tickets than Tom Cruise’s Oblivion at this same point in the release cycle. Monsters University was selling 50% more tickets than Brave at the same point in the sales cycle and accounted for 44% of Thursday’s ticket sales.