LINDSEY BAHR, AP Film writer
Lightyear didn’t go to infinity (or beyond) on its opening weekend in theaters: The studio estimated on Sunday that Pixar’s first major theatrical release since March 2020 opened with $51 million on its debut weekend in North America.
Not only did it open lower than expected, but it also failed to beat Jurassic World: Dominion, which held on to first place with $58.7 million in its second weekend.
It’s a mixed bag for Disney and Pixar as Lightyear, the film’s origin story that inspired the space ranger action figure in the Toy Story films, is one of the biggest launches for an animated family film about the pandemic. Including $34.6 million international showings, Lightyear’s total opening weekend is $85.6 million.
But expectations from such a high-profile release, based on a beloved, well-known character, were higher. Leading up to the weekend, some analysts were banking on Lightyear’s $70 million North American debut.
“Expectations are always incredibly high for any Pixar film, especially one that is directly related to the Toy Story brand,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracker Comscore.
Toy Story was launched by Pixar in 1995 and its four films have grossed over $3 billion. Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 also passed the $1 billion mark.
Family audiences proved slightly more reluctant than other segments to return to theaters. Many studios, including Disney and Pixar, have opted for streaming or hybrid versions of their animated films. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has shipped its Pixar games Soul, Luke, and Blushing directly to Disney+ at no charge to subscribers. Other major Disney animated films, Raya and the Last Dragon and Encanto, received hybrid versions.
“There may have been a bit of confusion about whether this is only in theaters,” Dergarabedyan said. “This is a movie to be sold in real time as family audiences connect the dots.”
Critics have generally been positive about Lightyear, which features Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear and supporting cast members Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi. Directed by Angus MacLaine, it currently has a 77% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience gave the film A-CinemaScore.
With a reported production budget of $200 million that doesn’t account for the millions spent on marketing and promotion, Lighteer has a long way to go to become profitable. But it can also have a slow, steady burn during the summer. And it’s the only big family that’s offering to play in theaters until Minions: The Rise of Gru releases on July 1st.
Lightyear opened in 4,255 locations domestically and in 43 countries around the world. Thirteen nations from the Muslim world and the Palestinian Territory have banned “Lightyear” from their theaters due to a brief kiss between a lesbian couple.
Meanwhile, Jurassic World: Dominion earned over $622.2 million worldwide, with $259.2 million of that coming from US and Canadian theaters. This is only the seventh film released during the pandemic to top $600 million.
In its fourth weekend, Top Gun: Maverick fell only marginally, earning an additional $44 million and finishing in third place. Its total in the domestic market now stands at $466.2 million. Overall, the sequel grossed over $885 million.
Dergabedian said it was particularly noteworthy that three films grossed more than $40 million this weekend.
“We haven’t seen this in a long time,” he said. We have a summer movie season here.
Rounding out the top five were Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness with $4.2 million and Burgers at the Movies with $1.1 million.
Estimated Friday through Sunday ticket sales in US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final internal data will be published on Monday.
1. Jurassic World: Dominion, $58.7 million
2. Lighter, $51 million
3. Top Gun: Maverick, $44 million
4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, $4.2 million
5. Bob’s Burgers at the Movies, $1.1 million
6. Bad Boys, $890,000
7. Everything and Everywhere at Once, $959,631
8. Downton Abbey: A New Era, $830,000
9. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, $228,000
10 Brian & Charles $198,000
Follow AP Film writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
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