“Lightyear” did not go to infinity (or beyond) in its first weekend in theaters: Pixar’s first major theatrical release since March 2020 blasted off with $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 conquer “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which held on to the first-place spot with $58.7 million its second weekend.
It is a mixed bag for Disney and Pixar as “Lightyear,” an origin story about the movie that inspired the space ranger action figure in the “Toy Story” movies, is one of the biggest launches for an animated family film over the pandemic. Including international showings, which grossed $34.6 million, “Lightyear’s” global opening weekend totals to $85.6 million.
But expectations were higher for a release this high profile and based on a beloved, well-known character. Going into the weekend, some analysts had pegged “Lightyear” for a $70 million North American debut.
“The expectations are always incredibly high for any Pixar movie, particularly one that has a direct connection to the Toy Story brand,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for box office tracker Comscore.
“Toy Story” launched Pixar in 1995 and its four films have made over $3 billion. “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4” also both broke the $1 billion mark.
Critics were mostly favorable to “Lightyear,” which features Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear and a supporting voice cast that includes Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi. Directed by Angus MacLane, it currently holds a 77% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave it an A- CinemaScore.
With a reported production budget of $200 million, which doesn’t account for the millions spent on marketing and promotion, “Lightyear” has a long journey ahead of it to get to profitability. But it could also have a slow, steady burn over the summer. And it’s the only big family offering playing in theaters until “Minions: The Rise of Gru” opens July 1.
“Jurassic World: Dominion,” meanwhile, has now earned over $622.2 million worldwide with $259.2 million of that coming from U.S. and Canadian theaters. It’s only the seventh movie released during the pandemic to surpass $600 million.
In its fourth weekend, “Top Gun: Maverick” dropped only slightly, bringing in an additional $44 million to take third place. Its domestic total is now at $466.2 million. Globally, the high-flying sequel has grossed over $885 million.
Dergarabedian said it’s especially notable that there are three movies made over $40 million this weekend.
“We haven’t seen that in a while,” he said. “We have a summer movie season here.”