‘Lightyear’ To Create A Buzz This Father’s Day/Juneteenth Weekend

There’s a starman waiting in the sky, and audiences of all ages should flock to see his intergalactic adventures this weekend. 27 years after Pixar launched with Toy Story and revolutionized CG animation, the landmark film’s conceited plastic co-hero, Buzz, finally gets a starring role in Lightyear. The film doesn’t take place in the world of toys, however. Rather, the conceit of the stand-alone sci-fi adventure is that it's the actual 1995 film about the eponymous space ranger (now voiced by Chris Evans) on which the Toy Story "Buzz" toy which Andy received is based. Even if we can’t expect the spinoff to reach the box office highs of the latest Toy Story sequels, it should do strong business over the Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend.

Lightyear opens in 4,200+ theaters, and after three Disney films going straight to Disney+ in the U.S. (Luca, Soul, and Turning Red), Pixar returns to cinemas with one of their biggest franchises. The third and fourth films in the Toy Story series were the studio’s fourth and third highest grossers respectively in the domestic market, grossing between $415-434 million, and worldwide they rank as Pixar’s second and third biggest grossers, with both films finishing at roughly $1.07 billion. Given Lightyear’s different genre, not to mention just one of the many beloved characters from the classic franchise, these don’t make great comps, but there is no doubt that Buzz Lightyear is a name that will sell a spaceship-load of tickets.

The film’s gross may not go to infinity and beyond, but it should be the top grossing animated film since Frozen II in late 2019. It’s also in the running alongside Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to be the top family film since the start of the pandemic (Sonic 2 opened at $72 million and has a cume of $190 million), and there’s a good chance the Pixar film will come out ahead. The release is well-timed as all of the family options still in theaters (Sonic 2, The Bad Guys, and The Bob's Burgers Movie) have largely run their course, though there is certainly crossover here with the audience of Jurassic World: Dominion, especially for fathers and sons looking for a film to see on Father’s Day.

Competition will come in two weeks when Minions: The Rise Of Gru opens, but that won’t stop Lightyear from playing long, as is typical for animated films in general and Pixar films specifically. Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 opened to $110-121 million, and the films had multipliers of 3.6-3.8, which are standard multipliers for the studio. Excluding Onward, which was released in early March 2020 right when the pandemic was breaking out, all Pixar films with Rotten Tomatoes scores above 80% had multipliers above 3.3 (and the relatively low 3.34 multiplier of Incredibles 2 can be explained away by its massive $183 million opening). Lightyear’s reviews don’t put it in the top tier of Pixar films, but at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes it looks like it will continue the studio’s streak of family favorites.

Previews started from Wednesday at 6pm on IMAX and other PLF screens and Thursday at 3pm on normal screens. Worldwide it opens in most markets this week, though France has to wait a week and Japan has to wait two weeks, while as of now there is no release in China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and much of the Middle East.

For something more down to earth, Focus Features is opening Brian and Charles in limited release. The quirky British dramedy is about an inventor in Wales who creates a humanoid robot. David Earl and Chris Hayward both star in and co-wrote the film, and first time filmmaker Jim Archer directs. It played at Sundance where the critical response was positive, garnering it 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Beyond the new releases, Jurassic World: Dominion in its second weekend and Top Gun: Maverick in its fourth weekend remain major box office draws. Having overtaken Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Top Gun: Maverick is now the year’s biggest film, and going by its 42% drop last weekend and $400+ million cume in just 18 days, it looks like it will stay that way for some time.

As for Jurassic World: Dominion, we have a good comp with its predecessor Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which opened just $3 million above Dominion and had the same A- CinemaScore. That film dropped 59% in its second weekend, and a similar drop for Dominion would give it a $59.5 million weekend two. We’ll see how Dominion holds up to Fallen Kingdom, which in its second weekend did not have any comparable competition as we’re seeing with Lightyear (with which it will have to share hundreds of IMAX and other PLF screens). Also, Dominion’s weekday numbers aren’t living up to Fallen Kingdom’s, with a $12.7 million Monday and $14.8 million Tuesday falling below the $14.7 million and $18.2 million Monday and Tuesday we saw from Fallen Kingdom. Even if Dominion can follow Fallen Kingdom’s trajectory and cross $400 million, that won’t be enough for it to win the summer as Top Gun: Maverick is flying past the competition.

With three legacy franchise entries (all playing off originals released within the span of a decade from 1986 to 1995) leading the way, we may see the year’s biggest weekend yet, beating the May 6-8 weekend of $222 million. We will definitely see the fourth weekend in a row above $100 million, the first time since January 2020, and it may also be the first time since March 2017 when two weekends in a row have an overall gross above $200 million.