“Lightyear” didn’t go to infinity (or beyond) in its first weekend in theaters: Pixar’s first major theatrical release since March 2020 shot in $51 million in its debut weekend in North America, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
Not only did it open lower than expected, but it also failed to capture “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which held the top spot on its second weekend with $58.7 million.
It’s a mixed bag for Disney and Pixar, as “Lightyear,” an original story about the movie that inspired the space keeper action figure in the “Toy Story” movies, is one of the biggest launches for an animated family movie about the pandemic. Including international screenings, which grossed $34.6 million, “Lightyear”‘s worldwide opening weekend was $85.6 million.
But expectations were higher for a release this high-profile and based on a much-loved, well-known character. Going into the weekend, some analysts had pegged “Lightyear” to a $70 million North American debut.
“Expectations are always incredibly high for any Pixar film, especially one that has a direct connection to the Toy Story brand,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Comscore.
“Toy Story” launched Pixar in 1995 and the four films have grossed over $3 billion. “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4” have also both crossed the $1 billion mark.
The family audience appears to be somewhat more reluctant than other segments to return to the cinema. Many studios, including Disney and Pixar, have opted for streaming or hybrid releases for their animation titles. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has shipped its Pixar titles – “Soul”, “Luca” and “Turning Red” – directly to Disney+, free to subscribers. Disney’s other major animation titles, “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Encanto” received hybrid releases.
“There may have been a bit of confusion about whether it’s theater-only,” Dergarabedian said. “This is a movie that needs to be released in real time as the family audience connects the dots.”
Critics were mostly positive about “Lightyear,” which featured Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear and a supporting voice cast featuring Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi. The film, directed by Angus MacLane, currently has a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience gave it an A-CinemaScore.
With a reported production budget of $200 million, which doesn’t factor in the millions spent on marketing and promotion, “Lightyear” has a long journey ahead of it to become profitable. But it can also have a slow, steady burn in the summer. And it’s the only big family to hit theaters until “Minions: The Rise of Gru” opens on July 1.
“Lightyear” opened in 4,255 locations domestically and in 43 markets abroad. Thirteen countries from the Muslim world and the Palestinian territory have banned “Lightyear” from playing in their cinemas for recording a short kiss between a lesbian couple.
Meanwhile, “Jurassic World: Dominion” has now earned more than $622.2 million worldwide, with $259.2 million coming from US and Canadian theaters. It is only the seventh film released during the pandemic to exceed $600 million.
On its fourth weekend, “Top Gun: Maverick” fell only slightly, bringing in an additional $44 million to take third place. The domestic total now stands at $466.2 million. Worldwide, the high-flying sequel has grossed over $885 million.
Dergarabedian said it’s especially noteworthy that three more than $40 million movies were made this weekend.
“We haven’t seen that in a while,” he said. “We have a summer movie season here.”
Rounding out the top five are “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” at $4.2 million and “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” at $1.1 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. The final domestic figures will be announced on Monday.
1. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” $58.7 Million
2. “Lightyear,” $51 million.
3. “Top Gun: Maverick,” $44 million.
4. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $4.2 million.
5. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $1.1 million.
6. “The Bad Guys,” $890,000.
7. “Everything Everywhere at Once,” $959,631.
8. “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” $830,000.
9. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” $228,000.
10. “Brian and Charles,” $198,000.
Follow AP film writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr