Lightyear, a spinoff story set in Pixar's Toy Story universe, fell short of that boundless milestone in its box office debut, 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.
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 analysts 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.