As sequels hailing from beloved franchises continue to flounder at the box office, Disney and Pixar’s cartooned fourquel is a much-needed win for the movie business. It now ranks among the top debuts for an animated movie, as well as only the third film this year (so far) to hit triple-digits its inaugural outing.
“Audiences are loving this movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior box office analyst at Comscore. “That should portend longterm playability for the film. [Pixar] can build on this perception of quality that should carry it forward quite nicely.”
Here are five takeaways from the opening weekend of “Toy Story 4.”
It’s a good time to be Disney, there’s no denying that. The Magic Kingdom is responsible for 30% of the marketshare, a figure that only stands to grow as the studio irons out its slate post merger with Fox. That number is nearly double its nearest competitors, Warner Bros. and Universal. Disney is now responsible for the four biggest debuts of 2019: “Avengers: Endgame” ($357 million), “Captain Marvel” ($157 million) and “Aladdin” ($91 million). And while ticket sales for the industry continue to pace well behind 2018’s record year, Hollywood is banking on Disney to dig the film business out of that hole. The coming weeks look even more promising with Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King,” “Frozen 2” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on deck. All other studios, take note.
The Magic Kingdom’s worst enemy is itself
Being Disney comes with its own gripes. That was evident this weekend as “Toy Story 4” prompted headlines about an underwhelming start, despite crossing the $100 million mark — a benchmark any other studio would be thrilled to report. But Disney’s consistent track record means its films are held to a higher standard.
“When you’re at the top of your game, that’s the blessing and the curse,” Dergarabedian said. “Everything you do is under a brighter spotlight.”
Nobody is immune to a little franchise fatigue
It’s hard to consider a triple-digit debut a disappointment on any level, but it’s undeniable that “Toy Story 4” did perform below expectations. The fourth chapter in the children’s franchise brought in a series-best opening, but it’s just $8 million more than the debut of “Toy Story 3,” which racked up $110 million when it launched in 2010. It’s always the hope that a follow-up will gross more than its predecessors, signaling that appetite has grown over the years. But in the decade since the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear last graced the big screen, the small jump in ticket sales indicates that audiences didn’t necessarily believe there was a compelling need for another “Toy Story.”
Box office tracking is an inexact science
It’s hardly a novel notion, the idea that estimating a film’s box office performance weeks ahead of its opening isn’t always spot-on, but this year has proved more than ever how off-kilter tracking can be. Whether a movie bows significantly ahead or behind estimates, early projections, which first appear on tracking boards three weeks ahead of a film’s debut, tend to dictate opening weekend perceptions. Sometimes it’s for the better, as was the case with Jordan Peele’s “Us.” The filmmaker’s highly anticipated follow-up feature film debuted with $71 million, nearly triple initial tracking that expected a start near $30 million. But in most instances, such as Universal’s “Glass” and Disney’s “Dumbo,” arriving well below expectations dominates headlines.
Pixar Animation Reigns Supreme
Few animation studios are operating at the level of Pixar. It’s rare that the fourth entry in a film franchise still generates positive sentiments. And though moviegoers might have been skeptical about the necessity for another “Toy Story,” critics hailed the movie as a worthy addition to Pixar’s cannon of family-friendly films. That kind of feedback is a testament to the powers that be at Disney’s animation studio, who have developed a track record of creating stories worth telling. Tony Hale, who voices as Forky, a nutty spork facing an existential crisis about what it means to be a toy, told Variety that reason is partially why he wanted to join “Toy Story 4.” “Having been a part of the process and seeing the story they wanted to tell, and also knowing Pixar doesn’t do things unless there’s a story to be told, I just had faith in their whole process,” Hale said.