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June 16, 2017

Third 'Cars' movie set to race past the competition

And predictions for 'All Eyez on Me,' 'Rough Night' and '47 Meters Down'

“Cars 3”

Pixar’s latest outing comes from their most polarizing franchise.

At the time of its release in 2006, "Cars" recorded the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score (74%) ever given to the studio.

Nonetheless, the picture scored a $60 million opening weekend on its way to a $244 million total in North America and $462 million worldwide. There’s nothing wrong with these totals, but they didn’t exactly scream “franchise” at a time when Pixar had only produced one sequel.

The longevity of "Cars" can instead be contributed to two factors. The first is that they are a favorite of John Lasseter, the CCO of Pixar and eventual head of Disney Animation. The second and far more influential contributor was merchandising.

Five years after the film hit theatres, Disney reported a staggering $10 billion in merchandise sales. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was greenlit.

"Cars 2" is almost unanimously considered the black sheep of the Pixar family and remains their only release to receive a rotten score, with just 39% of critics approving. To put that in perspective, the lowest rated Pixar movie outside the "Cars" franchise is 2015’s "The Good Dinosaur" which got the blessing of 77% of critics.

The 2011 sequel also significantly deviated from the plot of the original. Whereas “Cars” centered around the racing career of Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen, the sequel put side character Mater (voiced by Larry The Cable Guy) front and center.

Perhaps as a result, “Cars 2” did relatively poorly at the box office. After initially bringing in $66 million on the opening weekend, it ended with a $191M/$562M domestic/worldwide split . If you adjust for inflation, “Cars 2” finished 16th out of 17 in total tickets sold among all Pixar films since 1995.

In response, "Cars 3" is being sold as going back to the franchise’s roots. The story again revolves around McQueen and his efforts to outrace Father Time. The movie’s foreboding teaser trailer, which depicted Lightning crashing, seems to signal a shift in tone.

The studio appears to be copying the strategy of their "Toy Story" trilogy, which successfully sought to keep up with the kids who saw the original even as they got older.

Although never as popular as some of its Pixar brethren, this franchise still has a following. Meanwhile, the 69% Rotten Tomatoes score for the third film should be good enough. It’s still the biggest release of the weekend and the numbers will likely reflect that.

Prediction: $60 million

“All Eyez On Me”

This project, a biopic on legendary rapper Tupac Shakur, has been in development for years and is finally set to hit the big screens on what would’ve been the artist’s 46th birthday.

That bit of synergy may be necessary as the picture arguably lacks star power as the filmmakers went with unknown Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the lead. It appears they prioritized finding the right fit over casting a more recognizable face.

"All Eyez On Me" is a tough one to project. For instance,  "Notorious," a similar biopic about The Notorious B.I.G., opened with $20 million back in 2009. On the other hand, 2015’s "Straight Outta Compton," which chronicled the rise of the group N.W.A., was a breakout hit,  grossing $201 million worldwide off a $60 million domestic opening.

As of this moment, no reviews have been posted to Rotten Tomatoes, yet the movie is tracking in the $15M-$22M range this weekend. Given that films targeted towards black audiences tend to overperform as well as Shakur’s dedicated fan base, we're pegging it a bit higher.

Prediction: $25 million

“Rough Night”

The #1 rule in Hollywood: don’t give your movie a name that writers can use to make a punny title for their reviews.

"Rough Night" did not follow that rule.

The picture centers on a bachelorette party gone wrong and stars Scarlett Johansson in the lead role as bride-to-be.

Johansson is a legit star, with her most financially successful roles coming in action films like Black Widow in various MCU movies or as the protagonist in Luc Besson’s "Lucy." Earlier this year, however, her big-budget vehicle "Ghost in the Shell" flopped.

While Johansson isn’t a proven comedy star, the cast is filled with talented TV performers like Kate McKinnonIlana Glazer and Jillian Bell.

The issue, though, is that even those who are interested may decide to wait until the film comes out on VOD, DVD or TV. Add the fact that "Wonder Woman" continues to rake in cash and female theatre-goers may decide to see the superhero flick now and wait to watch the comedy at home.

A 42% Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t helping matters either. “Rough Night” looks set to have a...well you get the point.

Prediction: $11 million

“47 Meters Down”

"47 Meters Down" is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore.

The concept is simple, since the summer blockbuster was basically invented by "Jaws," then all summertime shark pictures should be hits.

This idea was somewhat rejuvenated when "The Shallows," a thriller revolving around Blake Lively’s duel with a killer shark became a surprise hit and finished with a $119 million worldwide gross.

Substitute Lively with Mandy Moore and you basically have the plot of “47 Meters Down.”

Lively’s picture, however, scored a 77% Rotten Tomatoes rating and benefitted from memorable marketing. Moore just doesn’t have the same advantages, with soft tracking and fierce competition.

Prediction: $5 million

Nick Field is the former Managing Editor of PoliticsPA and is a regular PennLive Opinion contributor. A Bucks County native, he graduated from American University in Washington, D.C.