Lightyear has failed to impress at the box office, collecting just $51 million from 4,255 North American theaters in its opening weekend, according to the latest tallies from entertainment publications that include Variety, which has called the ticket sales for Pixar’s Toy Story spinoff lackluster and disappointing for one of the world’s most recognizable animation studios. Disney had expected Lightyear to make at least $70 million during its opening, but the movie ended up debuting in second place behind Jurassic World Dominion, the sixth and seemingly final installment of Universal’s long-running dinosaur franchise that released on June 10, 2022 and brought back classic characters such as Sam Neill’s Alan Grant. Lightyear is now noted as being one of the few Pixar films not to take the top spot at the domestic box office, something that critics believe was prompted by the film’s controversies, such as a same-sex kiss, which resulted in the movie being banned in certain markets (e.g., Saudi Arabia). Others suggest that the reason is much more simple, in that it’s merely a bad film.
“This is a soft opening for a spinoff of one of the most successful animation series of all time,” says David A. Gross, principal of movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “‘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.”
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.
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.