The 2022 box office has its first big projection miss of the season as Disney/Pixar’s “Lightyear,” which had been expected to earn the best family movie opening of the year, is now estimated for a soft $52 million opening and could lose the No. 1 spot this weekend to Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
Pre-release projections for the “Toy Story” spinoff were expected to be at least $75 million with many analysts expecting a start in the $80 million range. That would have put “Lightyear” in the neighborhood of past Pixar films “Monsters University” and “Inside Out” and would have beaten the $72 million opening of spring family title “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Instead, it is opening around the $53 million start posted by “Cars 3” in 2017.
While “Lightyear” was the top grosser on Friday with $20.3 million from 4,255 screens — including $5.2 million from Thursday previews — industry estimates now have “Jurassic World: Dominion” beating “Lightyear” with a second weekend total of $57 million, a result that would give the dinosaur blockbuster a 10-day domestic total of just under $250 million.
In a way, this is history repeating itself. Back in 2015, the first “Jurassic World” earned $103 million in its second weekend to deny “Inside Out” the No. 1 spot despite the Pixar film’s $90 million opening. The relatively lower numbers posted by “Dominion” created the expectation that “Lightyear” could beat a weaker second weekend from the dino film, but that is proving to not be the case.
There’s still a chance for “Lightyear” to improve its numbers and retake No. 1 if it overperforms at Saturday and Sunday matinee screenings, which are usually the bread and butter for summer animated films and are difficult to estimate in projections as they bring in walk-up traffic. Audience word-of-mouth has also been positive as “Lightyear” scored an A- on CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 78% critics and 88% audience.
But such soft numbers may be a sign that Disney’s release strategies around its animated films have impacted its theatrical power. “Lightyear” is the first Pixar film to get a 45-day theatrical window after “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” were all released exclusively on Disney+. Or it could simply be that audiences were not especially interested in seeing a Buzz Lightyear spinoff film in theaters to begin with.
While it will take some time to parse out these results, what is much clearer is that “Lightyear” is losing moviegoer interest to the two live-action blockbusters that have dominated theaters over the past two weeks. Not only is “Jurassic World: Dominion” still doing well, Paramount/Skydance’s “Top Gun: Maverick” has a spectacular $40 million total in its fourth weekend in theaters, a weekend drop of just 23%.
With this result, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a virtual lock to become Tom Cruise’s first $1 billion box office hit and Paramount’s first film to hit that mark since “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” in 2011. Through four weekends, “Maverick” has a domestic total of $462 million, having passed $800 million worldwide on Thursday.