To infinity and beyond? Not exactly…
“Lightyear,” a spinoff story set in Pixar’s “Toy Story” universe, fell short of that boundless milestone in its box office debut, collecting a lackluster $51 million from 4,255 North American theaters. Family audiences, the movie’s prime demographic, haven’t returned to theaters in full force since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, those ticket sales are disappointing for a brand as recognizable as Pixar, the home of “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up.” It’s particularly problematic given that “Lightyear” cost $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market.
Heading into the weekend, the Disney film was expected to generate at least $70 million. But its ambitions were thwarted by heightened competition from Universal’s behemoth “Jurassic World Dominion” and Paramount’s high-flying “Top Gun: Maverick,” as well as little intrigue to watch a slightly esoteric origin story about Buzz Lightyear, one that had only a tenuous connection to the four films in the popular kid-friendly franchise. With its wobbly liftoff, “Lightyear” landed in second place, becoming one of the rare Pixar films to not take the top spot at the domestic box office.
Internationally, “Lightyear” earned $34.6 million from 43 markets, taking its global total to $85.6 million. The movie was banned in smaller foreign markets, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, because it depicts a same-sex kiss.
Notably, “Lightyear” is the first Pixar movie to play on the big screen in more than two years — since “Onward” in March 2020. During the pandemic, three of the animation studio’s titles — “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” — skipped theaters to land directly on Disney+, leaving some box office analyst to question if consumers have been trained to watch Pixar movies at home. Other industry experts question if Disney is relying too heavily on brand recognition and not enough on execution. It’s not that people disliked the movie, which landed an “A-” CinemaScore and 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. But Disney certainly hoped that more ticket buyers would feel compelled to see “Lightyear” in theaters over the weekend.
“This is a soft opening for a spinoff of one of the most successful animation series of all time,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. He notes: “‘Toy Story’ defied gravity at the box office during its 27-year run, each episode topping the last, the last two clearing a billion dollars worldwide. But like all spinoffs, the ‘Lightyear’ story is narrower now.”
Even with a colossal 60% decline, “Jurassic World Dominion” managed to capture the box office crown again in a surprise upset. Universal’s prehistoric sequel generated $58.6 million from 4,697 cinemas in its second weekend of release, bringing its domestic total to $259 million.
In third place, “Top Gun: Maverick” keeps flying high with a mammoth $44 million from 4,035 venues in North America, marking a scant 15% drop from last weekend. Those box office returns are especially significant because the film has been playing in theaters for a month. Only one other film that debuted in wide release has generated more in its fourth box office weekend — “Avatar,” with $50 million. To date, the sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” has grossed $466 million in the U.S. and Canada and $885 million globally, making the film the biggest blockbuster in Tom Cruise’s decades-long career.
Disney’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” took the No. 4 slot with $4.2 million from 2,455 locations. After seven weekends on the big screen, the Marvel comic book sequel has amassed an impressive $405.1 million in North America. However, the “Strange” sequel is no longer the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S. That title that now belongs to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
Another Disney movie, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” rounded out the top five. The film, a big-screen continuation of the popular TV series, grossed $1.1 million from 1,350 venues. After four weekends of release, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has generated $29 million at the domestic box office.
Though “Lightyear” was the only new movie to open nationwide, several films — including the Focus Features comedy “Brian and Charles” and IFC’s “Official Competition” — kicked off in limited release.
A Sundance favorite that didn’t resonate beyond Park City, “Brian and Charles” majorly whiffed in its box office debut. The feel-good film, directed by Jim Archer and starring David Earl, brought in just $198,000 from 279 theaters — translating to $711 per location.
Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas star in “Official Competition,” which generated $34,000 from four cinemas across the country ($8,500 per theater). The well-reviewed movie, about a wealthy businessman who hires a neurotic director to produce his passion project, expands to multiplexes in Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. next week before landing nationwide on July 1.
“We’re so thrilled this comedic gem connected with U.S. audiences and we look forward to its continued successful rollout,” said IFC Films President Arianna Bocco.