Despite the world cheering it on, ground control to Major Tom – er – Star Command to Buzz Lightyear didn’t have the blast-off it was hoping for. The highly anticipated Chris Evans-led film, Lightyear, opened over the weekend to a deafening silence. The movie was a long time coming and sought to tell the origin story of the character made famous by the Toy Story franchise. But something just didn’t stick. Despite the high projections made, which assumed Lightyear would blow rival films like Jurassic Park Dominion out of the water, the astronaut crashed and only raked in $51 million during its North American opening weekend. And while $51 million isn’t a crushing blow, Disney dropped $200 million on the feature, something they were most likely hoping would at least partly pay itself off during the film’s first few days on the screen.
But, alas, Chris Evans and the cast behind Lightyear are holding a place in Disney and Pixar opening history that lands them right behind the $53 million opening of Cars, but ahead of the sci-fi fantasy flick, Onward, which raked in $39 million. But what exactly happened to Lightyear to make it such an opening weekend flop? On paper, it had all the makings of reaching a wide demographic. For starters, there’s the obvious G and PG crowd of youngsters who have most likely been raised on the stories surrounding Woody and Buzz by the next generation who watched the films when they came out. Thirdly, there are the grandparents who are tagging along to see their grandchildren enjoy a Toy Story-centered movie the same way their own kids did back in the ‘90s.
For why the film just didn’t take off the way it was expected, David A. Gross, the owner of the movie consulting firm, Franchise Entertainment Research, sat down with Variety and revealed that he thought it was because of the “limitations” that spin-offs are facing today. While reboots and offshoots have been profitable in the past, according to Gross, they’re just losing steam, causing Chris Evans and the team behind Lightyear to fall short. He also blamed the movie’s hairpin plot turn at the very end of its promotional run. For those who didn’t know (and it sounds like the number was a lot!), the premise for the film was that it’s the movie that made the toy uber popular. So, in theory, Lightyear is the movie that Andy (from the original Toy Story) watched that made him ditch Woody and find a new best friend. It’s a movie within a movie!
While people (like me!) whose jobs require them to stay up to date on all things entertainment knew this was the idea behind the film, it wasn’t made common knowledge by the teasers and trailers released by the marketing team. In fact, thinking back to the first piece I wrote about Lightyear, I don’t think the premise was made super clear. For me, that didn’t happen until at least four months into reporting updates. This was a big hit for the plot development of Chris Evans’ titular character in Lightyear as viewers were confused as to what was going on. The good news is that it’s still early days for the film and that the movie has received positive reviews, something that may drive more moviegoers out to the theater. The bad news is that this isn’t the greatest start for the Pixar film to exceed the money it took to create it. And, as we’re sure they’re not forgetting, another expected box office smasher, Thor: Love and Thunder is just mere weeks away from presumably slamming all the competition out of the water. Godspeed Lightyear.