×

Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” blasted off with a respectable $5.2 million in Thursday previews.

The film, a spinoff of the “Toy Story” franchise, looks at the fictional astronaut character who was in a movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear action figure who enchanted Andy and who later became BFFs with Woody (got that?). But this Buzz Lightyear, much to Patricia Heaton’s rather evocative dismay, is voiced not by Tim Allen, whose dulcet pipes graced all four “Toy Story” flicks, but by the Star Command-ing cadences of one Chris Evans.

“Lightyear” is expected to launch to between $70 million to $80 million and will screen in 4,200 North American theaters. That should be a big enough number to secure first place at the box office, as well as all the attendant bragging rights that come with that perch. However, “Lightyear” is landing in an unusually crowded weekend at the box office. Last weekend’s champion, Universal’s “Jurassic World Dominion,” which debuted to $145 million, should still be able to gobble up some ticket sales, and “Top Gun: Maverick” remains a potent box office force as it enters it fourth weekend of release.

“Lightyear” carries a hefty $200 million production budget, so it needs to resonate with family crowds. It’s also an important test of Pixar’s theatrical muscle. It’s the first Pixar movie to play on the big screen in more than two years. As COVID raged, Disney shipped three Pixar movies — “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” — to Disney+ in an effort to bolster the company’s newly launched streaming service. That move reportedly didn’t sit too well with Pixar’s rank-and-file. If they want to change the minds of Disney chief Bob Chapek and the company’s leadership, they need “Lightyear” to be a big old blockbuster.

The Thursday results were an improvement on those of “Onward,” the last theatrical Pixar release, which earned $2 million in March 2020 (just before everything closed down due to COVID), but they are a far cry from the $12 million in grosses that “Toy Story 4” raked in from previews in 2019.

“Lightyear” is also notable in that it features the first same-sex kiss in a Disney animated film. That groundbreaking moment has led certain West Asia countries such as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Kuwait, to ban “Lightyear.” Disney originally excised that kiss but reinstated it in the wake of the staff revolt that greeted Chapek’s bungled response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

VIP+ Analysis: ‘Lightyear’ Cements Box Office’s Nostalgia Trend