Pixar’s “Lightyear” struggled to travel to infinity and beyond at the domestic box office last weekend, grossing an estimated $51 million, below industry projections of around $70 million thanks to a perfect storm of headwinds.
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Box Office Pro editorial director and senior vice president of content strategy Daniel Loria told FOX Business that there aren’t many data points to accurately predict families’ movie-going habits after the pandemic.
“If you look at the predictions right now for each title, I think the predictions, to be frank, have been way off,” Loria said. “I think in terms of Lightyear’s opening weekend, if we just look at the raw data that’s been there, the data points that we’ve had since the pandemic reopened cinemas, that works well in this sequence but certainly not in the pre-pandemic levels that we expect.”
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Loria said Lightyear’s box office receipts may have fallen victim to increased competition with “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which surpassed combined worldwide receipts by $600 million and $885 million. million, respectively, according to Sunday’s estimates from Comscore.
“I think the number one lesson, especially in terms of the international numbers, is that the US market is in a position where since a ‘Quiet Place Part II’, the US market has been a big movie coming out every two to three weeks,” he explained. “Last weekend at the box office you had ‘Top Gun’, you had ‘Jurassic World’ and you had ‘Lightyear’. It was a packed market with three films that played very competitively, and nobody got the lion’s share because I think there was so much competition.”
Film critic Scott Mantz added that inflation makes consumers more selective about what they see in theaters and that “Lightyear” being a spinoff from the original Toy Story franchise may have made the sale more difficult for families.
“Do you remember the movie in the first ‘Toy Story’ that little kid Andy was a big fan of and made him want to have a Buzz Lightyear action figure? It’s that movie,” said Mantz at FOX Business. “Try to pitch this to the families. It’s confusing.”
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In addition to competition and economic uncertainty, Mantz thinks “Lightyear” may have been hurt by families conditioned to Pixar’s previous direct-to-stream releases of “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red.”
“Pixar was the gold standard and I think it’s still the gold standard,” Mantz said. “But the adjusted norm now is the past two years, releasing these Pixar movies on Disney Plus because theaters were closed, but also because Disney was really trying to increase subscriptions.”
Loria argues the strategy has turned the Pixar brand into an “afterthought” in Disney’s massive media empire.
“Disney put themselves in a really tough spot with a marketing campaign around Lightyear because they had to compete with over two years of marketing that whole brand to go straight to streaming. And I think that’s something a lot of studios struggle with,” Loria pointed out. “I think the new paradigm of different periods of theatrical exclusivity is creating confusion among the general public and perhaps frustration there.”
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Although ‘Lightyear’ was banned in Malaysia and other countries for a gay kiss in the film, Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian says any controversy over it likely had no impact. on the film’s opening weekend.
“Historically speaking, controversies surrounding a film only serve to raise consumer awareness and curiosity and therefore have little demonstrable impact on the box office,” he told FOX Business. “Of course, there may have been would-be moviegoers who chose not to see ‘Lightyear’ for personal or political reasons, but from a pragmatic standpoint, for families who want to see a brand new movie. PG-rated animation film in theaters, ‘Lightyear’ is the only game in town until ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ opens on July 1 and so the movie could end up boosting its box office earnings over time rather than with a big opening weekend launch.”
According to Comscore, “Lightyear” is on track to hit $100 million worldwide this week and could potentially top $100 million domestically if it holds up over the next two weeks.
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