Buzz Lightyear failed to make it into box office hyperspace over the weekend. But it was not clear why.
“Lightyear,” the first Pixar film to open in theaters in more than two years, sold an estimated $51 million in tickets at 4,255 locations in the United States and Canada in its first three days of release, according to Comscore, which compiles the box office data While strong, that total fell almost 30 percent below pre-release analysts’ expectations and wasn’t enough to eclipse “Jurassic World Dominion” as the No. 1 multiplex draw.
“This is a soft opening for a spinoff of one of the most successful animated series of all time,” said David A. Gross, a consultant who publishes a subscription newsletter on box office numbers.
Overseas, “Lightyear” grossed an additional $34.6 million. “In almost every international market, ‘Lightyear’ opens before the upcoming school holidays, so long-term play is key,” Disney said in a box office report on Sunday.
The film was banned from 14 small box office markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia because it briefly depicts a same-sex relationship. In one scene, a ranger voiced by Uzo Aduba gives his wife a little kiss. Chinese authorities have not yet said whether they will authorize the launch of “Lightyear”. But box office analysts are not hopeful given the country’s past stance on LGBTQ content.
The $200 million film revisits Pixar’s hit “Toy Story” franchise. But this time the concept is very different. “Lightyear” is a prequel about the human Buzz Lightyear, who served as the inspiration for the toy Buzz fans know and love, and his quest to escape from a hostile alien planet. Being human, Buzz sounds different, with Chris Evans providing his voice. (Tim Allen voiced Buzz the action figure in “Toy Story,” released in 1995, and three sequels.) Neither is Woody.
Reviews were mostly positive, though to a lesser degree than normal for a Pixar release. (“It succeeds more commensurate with second-tier Disney than first-tier Pixar animation,” wrote AO Scott in The New York Times.) .
So why did “Lightyear” disappoint?
Disney has trained families to look forward to Pixar movies coming to the Disney+ streaming service; Pixar’s last three movies — “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” — have debuted online, with Disney citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason. Some fans were upset by Allen’s absence as the main vocal talent, populating Twitter with #NotMyBuzz comments. in a tweet that went viral Last week, actress Patricia Heaton drew attention to Allen’s absence. “Why would they completely emasculate this iconic and beloved character?” she wrote.
Some ultra-conservative politicians and pundits criticized the film — at first glance — for including a same-sex relationship. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas criticized “Disney Awakened” in a podcast, citing the portrayal of “lesbian toys” in “Lightyear.”
Although the pandemic has subsided, some parents are undoubtedly still apprehensive about going to the movies. (Another test will come on July 1, when Universal releases the animated sequel “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”)
And competition from holdover films was strong. Universal’s “Jurassic World Dominion” grossed about $58.7 million in North America, for a two-week domestic total of about $250 million. “Lightyear” was second. “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount) stayed healthy at No. 3, grossing roughly $11 million and raising its four-week domestic total to $466 million.