In a shocking box office development, Pixar’s star-studded return to theaters has stopped short of infinity and beyond.
Lightyear had a surprisingly underwhelming opening weekend at the domestic box office. The film opened in second place with $51 million. Earlier projections predicted an opening of more than $70 million.
Lightyear was expected to take the top spot at the box office, but it was outgrossed by Jurassic World: Dominion in its second week. The sequel outearned Lightyear to the tune of $58.6 million.
Pixar’s success is usually foolproof. They’re an established brand in animated films with each release being treated as an event in itself. Lightyear even had the benefit of piggybacking off the beloved Toy Story franchise. For comparison, Toy Story opened to $120 million in 2019, and Toy Story 3 opened to $110 million in 2010.
Lightyear is the first film spinoff of the Toy Story franchise. Plus, it is the first theatrical Pixar release since early 2020. It is Disney’s first film spinoff from the Toy Story franchise, but it does not feature the Buzz Lightyear audiences know. The film tells a story inspired by the toy that would have been released within the Toy Story universe. This may have led to some audience confusion on how the film is related to the other Toy Story installments.
What’s Behind Lightyear’s Underperformance?
Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, said some filmgoers may not have realized that “Lightyear” was a spinoff. In a report by NBC News, Dergarabedian speculated some people might have expected Lightyear to premiere on the streaming service Disney+ like the three previous Pixar movies, Soul, Luca, and Turning Red.
Dergarabedian went on to say there could be optimistic results for Lightyear in the long run. “Despite coming in with a lower-than-expected weekend, Lightyear should benefit in the coming days as word gets out to family audiences who may not have entirely made the Toy Story connection and that the film is only available in theaters.”
The forecast for Lightyear isn’t all gloomy. It won’t be until the release of Minions: The Rise of Gru on July 1 that audiences will have another major family film to choose from. In the meantime, Lightyear will still face stiff competition from the aforementioned Dominion as well as Top Gun: Maverick which is on a whirlwind journey through box office records.
The reviews for Lightyear have been mostly positive. It currently has a score of 77% on Rotten Tomoates. Reviews were on the weaker side for a Pixar movie. Some critics argue it felt like an unnecessary extension of the Toy Story franchise, and audience reactions also seem more muted than what’s typical for the series.
The film also faced criticism for depicting a kiss between two female characters. Multiple countries have banned the film because of this controversy, mostly in the Middle East.