6 Lessons From Pixar’s $51 Million Opening

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Disney/Pixar’s “Lightyear” fell far short of infinity and beyond with a disappointing $51 million domestic debut. While the animated spin-off of the “Toy Story” franchise was not expected to fetch the more than $100 million that recent Pixar sequels like “Toy Story 4,” “Incredibles 2” and “Finding Dory” have earned, the The film is projected to open to over $75 million in North America and over $125 million globally.

Instead, it trailed Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion second-weekend earnings on the domestic charts and opened worldwide with $85.6 million, a total that roughly matches Pixar’s first major box office flop. The Good Dinosaur of 2015. Like “Lightyear,” “The Good Dinosaur” had a budget of around $200 million and failed to make a profit with just $332 million raised worldwide.

Despite the fact that franchise spinoffs rarely do as much as direct sequels, a spinoff based on one of the most iconic characters Pixar has ever created is designed to do much, much better. But unless the film’s positive word-of-mouth gives it some miraculous legs, “Lightyear” is headed for an unprofitable (and likely sequel-less) destination. Some of the factors behind this disappointment are certain, while others will need more data to confirm.

What went wrong? There are at least six factors that have sunk Buzz Lightyear’s chances with moviegoers.

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‘Jurassic World 3’ Remains at No. 1 as ‘Lightyear’ Fails to Launch with $51 Million Opening

1. Buzz was shot down by fighters and eaten by dinosaurs

Let’s start with what we know for sure: “Lightyear” fell victim to the incredibly strong competition posted by Paramount/Skydance’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Top Gun: Maverick,” with the dinosaur topping the charts with $58 million in cash. its second weekend, while “Maverick” continues to accelerate towards the $1 billion mark with $44 million in its fourth weekend, second only to “Avatar” for the highest fourth-weekend total ever posted. in box office history.

“Dominion” is billing itself as 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is down about 60% over the weekend, but “Maverick” is down just 15% from the $50 million it posted in its third weekend. week. Not only is word of mouth spreading like wildfire and attracting new viewers, it is also bringing fans back for repeat views. Combine that with its popularity among older audiences, and “Maverick” has become a popular Father’s Day selection.

2. There was confusion about what ‘Lightyear’ was…

One reason spin-offs don’t do as well as their main franchises is because they depart to some degree from what audiences find attractive in those franchises. “Fantastic Beasts” may have added Dumbledore in later chapters, but the series lacks Harry Potter and his friends. “Hobbs & Shaw” may have some characters from “Fast and the Furious”, but not Dominic Toretto and the family.

Not only does “Lightyear” lack the “Toy Story” characters that audiences adore — including Toy Buzz himself — but there was confusion about what the movie actually was. This dates back to when Pixar boss Pete Docter first announced the film at D23 in 2019, explaining that the film would not star the Buzz Lightyear that fans know and love, but will tell the story of the “real” space ranger who inspired the movie. toy franchise. Buzz’s new voice actor Chris Evans tried to make a similar explanation when the first trailer for the movie was released.

This meta-concept probably confused some potential viewers by becoming a movie twitter joke, even when Disney released TV commercials near the film’s release explaining simply how “Lightyear” was supposed to be the movie that inspired Andy to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy in the original “Toy Story”. But that explanation and the sight of Buzz in a more detailed space ranger suit didn’t make up for trailers that remained light on plot details, likely turning some viewers away from the film and towards other popular theatrical sequels.

Read too:
‘Lightyear’ Cast and Character Guide: Who Voices Who? (Photos)

3. …but whoever saw it loved it.

The good news for “Lightyear” is that the public reception has been positive. Viewership metrics for the film included an A- rating on CinemaScore and Postrak of 85% positive, with 61% saying they would “definitely recommend” the film. Both of Postrak’s results are slightly above what “Jurassic World: Dominion” achieved.

But that may not be enough to help “Lightyear”. Those numbers, while good, weren’t as strong as the 88-89% positive ratings and A CinemaScore rating that “Toy Story 4” and “Enchantment” earned, and “Lightyear” will have a limited window as the only animated film. in theaters until Universal releases “Minions: The Rise of Gru” on July 1.

Sometimes it’s not enough for an opening weekend audience to just enjoy a movie. To get the word-of-mouth momentum that “Dominion” and “Maverick” have, the film needs to earn a reputation as something that needs to be seen in theaters; and there is no sign that “Lightyear” has reached that level.

Lightyear Pixar

Pixar

4. Did Disney+ harm Pixar theatrically?

Which begs the question of whether Disney’s recent trend of releasing Pixar movies as streaming exclusives has affected the venerable animation house’s reputation for making must-see movies for the big screen. While “Soul” and “Luca” were released on Disney+ to guard against a still-recovering pandemic market, the company’s decision to release “Turning Red” this spring after the streaming success of “Enchantment” raised many eyebrows.

It’s possible that parents, in an effort to cut down on expenses in an inflationary economy, are less willing to buy four movie tickets and concessions for anything but the biggest movie, and that “Lightyear” didn’t meet that requirement. greater selectivity as they decided to wait for a release on Disney+.

But it’s hard to make a definitive judgment on the fate of family movies at the box office, because few dared to open in theaters when COVID eased. So far this year, the studios have only released two animated movies in theaters: “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” a movie that only attracted fans of the cult hit TV series (and a modest $31.8 million global gross). , and “The Bad Guys,” a DreamWorks film that isn’t based on a pre-existing film series that topped $236 million worldwide, but didn’t (and was never expected to) perform as well. a $200 million franchise pillar.

Even Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” a movie that had a big family turnout and created optimism for “Lightyear” and other summer family offerings, received a boost from millennials who grew up playing the “Sonic” video games. and took the sequel to nearly $400 million worldwide. Disney insiders say that while the studio is disappointed with the results of “Lightyear,” it’s waiting to see how “Minions: The Rise of Gru” fares before drawing any major conclusions about how it will handle upcoming animated films like “Strange World,” which is scheduled to be released on Thanksgiving.

Read too:
Chris Evans Is Ready For His Own Disneyland ‘Lightyear’ Ride: ‘That’s the Dream’ (Video)

5. All eyes turn to Enlightenment

As a result of “Lightyear” and its failure to launch, analysts and other studios will be taking an even closer look at how Universal fares with the release of the latest installment in Illumination’s first and most profitable franchise.

Unlike so many other spin-offs, “Minions” bucked the trend and performed better than any of the three “Despicable Me” films on which it is based. It’s easy why. While other spin-offs stray from the series’ main formula, “Minions” was an undiluted explosion of the babbling yellow creatures that were the most popular element of the “Despicable Me” franchise. It was the franchise movie equivalent of a bowl of Lucky Charms with just the marshmallows, and Universal took it to a $1.15 billion global run in 2015.

6. Theaters are still raising money

“Lightyear” may be a disappointment for Disney, but it’s still contributing to the strong summer theaters have enjoyed so far. Combined with the strong holdovers of “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Top Gun: Maverick,” the estimated grand totals for the weekend are $162 million, which is 19% higher than the same weekend of mid-June in pre-pandemic 2019. When estimates for the Monday, June 19 holiday are included, that total rises to $186 million.

Still, Lightyear’s weaker opener now means June domestic totals are unlikely to hit $1 billion — the monthly count now stands at $684 million as of Sunday. But studios are starting to provide theaters with the range of offerings needed for a healthy box office, a trend that will continue this weekend with the release of Blumhouse horror film “The Black Phone” and Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic “Elvis.” .

Read too:
‘Top Gun’ and ‘Jurassic World’ sequels could take June to first $1 billion box office since 2019

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