Disney/Pixar's sequel Finding Dory is now playing in theaters worldwide, thirteen years after its predecessor, Finding Nemo, arrived on the scene - in the process, grossing $896 million around the globe (a number that has only since been eclipsed by Toy Story 3, as far as Pixar movies go) and becoming one of the animation studio's most beloved films ever among critics and general audiences alike. Nemo co-writer/director Andrew Stanton went to helm another Pixar hit (WALL·E) and a Disney live-action box office dud (John Carter), before he set to work on the next chapter in the stories of Nemo, his father Marlin (Albert Brooks) and their forgetful friend, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).
Filmgoers in general were already eagerly anticipating Finding Dory well before it hit theaters (it ranked #2 on Fandango's Most Anticipated 2016 Movies survey results), so the animated sequel's positive critical reception has only buoyed its box office prospects - both for its opening weekend and long-term prospects. Finding Dory has already set a U.S. Thursday night opening record for animated films - and now, early box office estimates suggest it will the same for animated movie opening weekends.
Finding Dory was predicted to gross as much as $115-120 million headed into its opening weekend at the U.S. box office alone. However, such sites such as Deadline have now raised their estimates to $140 million (and then some), not taking into account the film's box office gross on the other side of the pond.
The Finding Nemo sequel pulled in an estimated $55 million in the U.S. on Friday, which eclipses the opening day record set by Shrek the Third in 2007 ($47 million). Similarly, Finding Dory is now expected to easily pass the third Shrek movie's $121.6 million U.S. opening weekend take (the biggest for an animated film to date) and will pass the $90 million three-day U.S. opening of last year's Pixar hit Inside Out on its second day of release stateside.
The other new wide U.S. release this week is Warner Bros. Pictures' action/comedy Central Intelligence - which, thanks to the combined star power of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, isn't doing shabby either, having taken in $13 million during its first day at the U.S. box office. While neither critics nor general audiences are quite as taken with Central Intelligence as they are Finding Dory, Johnson/Hart's buddy flick has nevertheless been well-received on the whole and should continue to thrive as counter-programming to Dory over the next week at the box office - and possibly beyond, since next Friday's big release (Independence Day: Resurgence) is a decidedly different type of summer movie than either Central Intelligence or Finding Dory.
Disney/Pixar has now rebounded at the box office, after their Fall 2015 release The Good Dinosaur performed weaker than expected at the box office (despite a respectable critical reception). For the larger Disney corporation, Finding Dory is the latest 2016 movie to have both been celebrated as creative accomplishments and hit it big at the box office, following after Zootopia, The Jungle Book, and Captain America: Civil War. The studio now has a blemish on its 2016 report card thanks to Alice Through the Looking Glass, but between its year already and the films it has in the pipeline for the fall (including, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), one imagines Disney studio heads aren't sweating the poor turnout for its Alice in Wonderland sequel too much.
Finding Dory is now playing in U.S. theaters.