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Why is Pixar’s movie ‘Lightyear’ doing poorly at the box office?

“Lightyear,” a spinoff story set in Pixar’s “Toy Story”universe, has fallen short of the lofty expectations in its box office debut.


“Lightyear,” a spinoff story set in Pixar’s “Toy Story” universe, has fallen short of the lofty expectations at the box office, collecting a lackluster $51 million from 4,255 North American theaters.

Family audiences, the movie’s prime demographic, have been largely absent since Covid, but even so, those ticket sales are disappointing for a brand as recognizable as Pixar, the home of “The Incredibles,” Finding Nemo” and “Up.”

It’s particularly problematic given that “Lightyear” cost $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market.

Falling short

Heading into the weekend, the Disney film was expected to generate at least $70 million. But its ambitions were thwarted by heightened competition from Universal’s behemoth “Jurassic World Dominion” and Paramount’s high-flying “Top Gun: Maverick,” as well as little intrigue to watch a slightly esoteric origin story about Buzz Lightyear, one that had only a tenuous connection to the four films in the popular kid-friendly franchise. With its wobbly liftoff, “Lightyear” landed in second place, becoming one of the rare Pixar films to not take the top spot at the domestic box office.

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 Pixar movies -- “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. “Lightyear” landed an “A-” CinemaScore, indicating that audiences enjoyed the movie.

‘Lightyear’: ¿la película tiene escenas post créditos?
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Foto: Pixar

“This is a soft opening for a spin-off of one of the most successful animation series of all time,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. He notes: “’Toy Story’ defied gravity at the box office during its 24 year run, each episode topping the last, the last two clearing a billion dollars worldwide. But like all spin-offs, the ‘Lightyear’ story is narrower now.”