Weekend box office preview: ‘Lightyear’ brings Pixar back to movie theaters after 2 years

We’re fully into the summer and the box office seems to have rebounded closer to the “before times” with multiple weekends in which the top 10 grossed more than $200 million. This seems like as good a time as any for Pixar Animation, one of Walt Disney’s profitable partners, to return to movie theaters after two years of Pixar releases being streamed on Disney+. Maybe it will keep the box office ball rolling? Read on for our weekend box office preview.

Directed by Angus MacLane (“Finding Dory”), “Lightyear” is partially a prequel to the “Toy Story” movies, but it’s also a sci-fi space adventure about astronaut Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans), whose exploits led to the action figure that would become one of Andy’s toys in the original “Toy Story,” as voiced by Tim Allen. Evans is joined by a voice cast that includes Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Uzo Aduba and Pixar’s own Peter Sohn as Sox the robotic cat, which is already deemed to be the movie’s scene stealer, according to early reactions.

Wisely, Disney is releasing “Lightyear” in the same prime release month of June as 2010’s “Toy Story 3” and 2019’s “Toy Story 4,” in hopes it could have as big an opening weekend as those precursors. “Toy Story 3” opened with $110.3 million and ended up grossing $415 million in North America and a billion worldwide. Its sequel opened with $121 million and grossed a slight bit more overall. It isn’t unfeasible that “Lightyear” could follow suit, but it’s still trying something quite different than the other four “Toy Story” movies, which could give older audiences some hesitance vs. parents with kids.

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Although early social media reactions were generally positive, reviews have been decent but not quite on par with the “Toy Story” movies, the first two which launched Pixar Animation as an entity with both “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” still sporting 100% Fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Although reviews for “Lightyear” are still pouring in, it seems to be substantially lower with 81% Fresh, at the time of this writing. Like last week’s “Jurassic World: Dominion,” this lower review rating might not make much of a difference, because a.) kids don’t read reviews and b.) they’ll probably want to see the movie anyway.

At this point, many if not most schools are out across the country, which means that business on Friday could be closer to that of a normal Saturday. On top of that, Sunday is Father’s Day, and “Lightyear” is one of the movies that could very well bring in kids wanting to spend time with their Dads and vice versa. (“Maverick” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” are also likely to get a nice bump on Sunday from the celebration of fatherhood.)

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Right now, I have “Lightyear” opening just under $100 million, probably in the $80 to 90 million range, although the lack of new family movies has allowed other films to do big business. The combination of “Lightyear” being “Toy Story” adjacent, and it being the summer could deliver another surprise hit for the season.

As far as the rest of the top 5, the three movies mentioned above will take the top 3, followed by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and then fifth place will either be “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” or “The Bad Guys,” although both those animated films are likely to get dinged by the release of “Lightyear.” All other movies in the top 10 are likely to make less than a million.

Check back on Sunday for a recap of how things fared at the box office.

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