If you don't think timing is critical at the box office, just ask Grug and Eep.
They're the father and daughter (voiced by Nicolas Cage and Emma Stone) from "The Croods," the DreamWorks Animation cartoon racking up bucks for distributor Fox the past month.
Critics liked it and audiences loved it, giving it an "A-" CinemaScore, but it's also benefited greatly from being the only animated film in the market.
That's been the case since it opened to $43 million on March 22 and for the past month, as it has rolled up $154 million and never dropped below third place at the box office. "The Croods" has brought in another $272 million overseas.
And it's not done yet. "The Croods" will remain the only real cartoon in the U.S. market for the next month – until the May 24 debut of "Epic," another Fox release. And that one will have the family market to itself until June 21, when Disney rolls out "Monsters University."
What that means is that if you're taking your young kids to the movies anytime soon, it will be a Fox release.
"Sweet, isn't it?" said Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson. But he's quick to point out other factors have helped turn "The Croods" into a success.
"This is a well-made movie," Aronson said, "and the film's family dynamic – especially the interplay between the father and daughter – has really resonated with parents and their kids."
The performance of the prehistoric tale, Fox's stranglehold on the kids market this spring and the emergence of its in-house animation unit Blue Sky underscore the point studio chairman Jim Gianopulos made last week at CinemaCon: Fox is now a dominant player when it comes to animation.
In addition to "Epic," a sumptuous panorama of miniature fairies, animals and tiny mounted soldiers, Blue Sky is working on the next "Rio" film (April 2014) and an upcoming reinvention of Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts." And Fox will release DreamWorks Animation's "Turbo" on July 17.
Several other studios are still very much in the animation game, of course, and Disney and Pixar aren't ready to cede their ground as the go-to studio for family films.
In addition to "Monster University," this year they'll release "Planes" on Aug. 9 and "Frozen" on Thanksgiving weekend, a date that has launched hits like "Toy Story 2" and "Tangled."
Sony, which had a breakout hit with "Hotel Transylvania" last year, will be back this year with sequels to "The Smurfs" (July 31) and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Sept. 27). And Universal will roll out "Despicable Me 2" on July 3.