A lot will likely be written this weekend about “what went wrong with Lightyear” when, in reality, there may not have been anything wrong with it at all. Expectations that this would be the exception to the family trends during the pandemic may still pan out, just maybe not with the truly excellent returns many pundits were imagining. Perspective deserves its day in the sun when it comes to the Lightyear numbers, and though it may end up not applying to infinity and beyond, it is worth breaking down for the time being.
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
Before we get to Lightyear, though, we have to give it up for the dinosaurs who admittedly got a big assist from a very low Pixar number. Billy, do you want to go see the movie that inspired the toy from that other movie, or do you want to see dinosaurs again? Jurassic World: Dominion’s second week at No. 1 dropped 59% to $58.7 million, driving its total to $248.8 million. What are its chances at a $400 million total? It is just about in line with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which finished with $389 million, though Dominion’s second weekend was $8 million below the Marvel film. On the other hand, it is also very much in line with The Hunger Games, which had $248.4 million after 10 days and a $58.5 million weekend. That film finished with over $408 million, and it was a March release with only 25.2% of its final haul from Mondays-to-Thursdays. Dominion made $46 million in its first four weekdays while The Hunger Games made $37.3 million, so the former is already beginning to outpace the latter, but it would need to keep itself above $33 million next weekend to maintain pace; that’s not outside the realm of possibility with Elvis and The Black Phone leading new releases on Friday. As for its race to a billion, Dominion is currently over $621 million worldwide, which is the seventh best among domestic studio releases since 2020.
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
The first sign of trouble appeared to be with Lightyear’s Thursday preview numbers, which came to roughly $5.2 million from shows that began at least as early as 3 PM in some markets. History suggests that films making between $5-6 million in those Thursday showings average an opening of just below $55 million. It doesn’t help that two of the films in that category include 2022 releases Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore ($42.1 million opening) and Morbius ($39 million). But can we at least admit that expectations for Lightyear were a bit higher than either of those? The few films that helped pad that $55 million average were SPECTRE ($70.4 million), The Matrix Reloaded ($91.7 million), and the true outlier, The Secret Life of Pets ($104.3 million). A-ha! Let’s balance Lightyear’s early numbers – $5.2 million on Thursday and $51 million for the weekend – against its animated counterparts:
Incredibles 2 ($18.5 million Thursday / $182.6 million opening weekend)
Toy Story 4 ($12.0 / $120.9)
Finding Dory ($9.2 /$135.0)
Frozen II ($8.5 / $130.2)
Minions ($6.2 / $115.7)
The Secret Life of Pets ($5.3 / $104.3)
Despicable Me 2 ($4.7 / $83.5)
Despicable Me 3 ($4.1 / $72.4)
Toy Story 3 ($4.0 / $110.3)
OK, that does actually make it look much worse, especially coming in below those Illumination titles. But does it come down to families still not fully on board with bringing their little ones to theaters, or kids not wanting to see Movie Buzz compared to Toy Buzz or, God forbid, some parents worried about their kids seeing the barest of pecks between two ladies for half a second? Whatever the case may be, here is some more perspective: Lightyear’s $20.7 million between Thursday and Friday (and $51 million for the weekend) is the sixth-best of the year (between Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Fantastic Beasts 3.) That would have been eighth-best in all of 2021. Sure, it ranks 18th for Pixar (out of 23 theatrical films) but those are all pre-pandemic numbers, and they have thrown their last three films on Disney+ instead of releasing them theatrically.
So now the question on everyone’s minds is whether or not Lightyear can pierce the $200 million line. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remains the leading family go-getter from 2020-22 with over $190 million. Sing 2 is the leading animated title with $162 million. Despite Sonic 2 having an edge with a start of over $72 million, the April release only saw 23% of its revenue made on schoolday weekdays. The average weekday returns of Pixar’s June releases is 37.54% of their final total. Even the worst of the lot (Cars 2) saw 34.23% of its final gross on the weekdays. Remember, family films have been at a minimum, and The Bad Guys just made over 3.8 times its opening weekend of $23.9 million. Coming soon, there will be something for the family every two weeks through the end of July (including Paws of Fury and DC League of Super Pets) and then it is all clear until Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile in October. Maybe kids really are waiting for Minions: The Rise of Gru, and the adults who grew up with Toy Story felt no urgency for Lightyear. But let’s see how it legs out before stranding it to streaming.
(Photo by Scott Garfield/©Paramount Pictures)
Top Gun: Maverick had another of its historic miniscule drops this weekend – down 15% from $51.8 million in its third frame to $44 million in its fourth. How historic is that number? Oh, it is only the second-best fourth weekend in box office history. That’s right, it goes Avatar ($50.3 million), Top Gun: Maverick ($44 million), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($42.3 million), and Black Panther ($40.8 million). Last week, $500 million was a real possibility for the Cruise sequel; this week it is a certainty. Shall we look towards $600 million? We’re only talking 10 films that have ever achieved that domestically. Just a week ago Maverick had the 15th best total for a film after 17 days. Now it has the 13th best for a film after 24. Among the 17 films to have grossed $400 million through 24 days, the average third weekend was $29.01 million. Maverick is well ahead of that. In its fourth weekend back in 2015, Jurassic World (the first one) was at $29.2 million, but also had banked $556 million, a full $90 million ahead of Top Gun’s current pace. Currently there is just no predicting how high Maverick will climb. As long as it keeps posting minimal drops like it has been, almost no number is off the table… including $1 billion, as it has risen to $885 million globally.
The No. 2 movie of the summer (and year), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, also passed $400 million this week and is still headed for around $415 million. Will that be enough to ward off Thor: Love and Thunder next month? Two other success stories in the top 10 include Universal’s aforementioned The Bad Guys, which is not far from getting into the black. Another $950,000 this weekend brought its domestic total to over $94 million, and it as made over $232 million worldwide. Then, A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once has surpassed $65 million.
Two May releases lost over 2,000 theaters between them this week as each come in for a soft landing with the projections we have had for them for weeks. 20th Century Studios’ The Bob’s Burgers Movie got itself over $30 million but won’t be going much higher. Focus’ Downton Abbey: A New Era is now over $42 million, less than half of the first film’s gross, and should be a disappointment for the studio. Their latest release from Sundance this year, Brian and Charles, debuted this week in the top 10 with $197,000 in 279 theaters. A film with a $706 per-theater-average was enough to get into the top 10, the lowest for a debut since Infinite Storm had a $497 PTA the last weekend of March. But thanks to Jurassic World Dominion, Lightyear, and Top Gun: Maverick, the $162 million made by the top 10 is still the third best June weekend going back to 2019.
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)
We’ve had Queen and Elton John, and now it is time for Elvis to make another run at the box office. The last time Baz Luhrmann invaded theaters, it was his version of The Great Gatsby, which grossed over $144 million, but that film also benefited from Leonardo DiCaprio as its lead. Will Luhrmann’s new 159-minute biopic find the adult audience that continues to evade movie theaters? It currently has a 79% Tomatometer score, which is Luhrmann’s second highest behind his debut Strictly Ballroom (89%) and his highest since Moulin Rouge (76%) in 2001. Also opening is Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone, based on the short story by Joe Hill. M. Night Shyamalan’s Old is the highest-grossing non-sequelized (or remade) horror film since 2020 with just $48 million. Universal would be ecstatic with a total like that, but will the genre fans show up for the film currently boasting a perfect 100% after its premiere at Fantastic Fest last September?
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]