Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Disney Groomer Flick ‘Lightyear’ Disappoints at Box Office

'The expectations are always incredibly high for any Pixar movie, particularly one that has a direct connection to the Toy Story brand...'

(Headline USA) 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.

The movie garnered several negative headlines in conservative media at a time when many have already made the decision to try their best to boycott Disney over its aggressive efforts to indoctrinate children with LGBT-oriented content.

Lightyear was no exception, having gotten itself banned in at least 14 countries for portraying a homosexual kiss involving two female characters.

The movie also faced criticism over its decision to replace longtime lead actor Tim Allen, an outspoken conservative, with the more progressive Chris Evans.

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.

While boycotts of the Disney brand might have contributed, other factors that industry analysts point to include new streaming options available for at-home viewing.

Many studios, including Disney and Pixar, have opted for hybrid releases for their animated titles. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has sent its Pixar titles—Soul, Luca and Turning Red—directly to Disney+ free for subscribers.

Disney’s other big animated titles, Raya and the Last Dragon and Encanto, got hybrid releases.

“There may have been a little confusion about whether it’s just in theaters,” Dergarabedian said. “This is a movie that is going to have to be marketed in real time as family audiences connect the dots.”

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.

Lightyear opened in 4,255 locations domestically and in 43 markets overseas.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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