Buzz Lightyear and Izzy meeting. Image: Disney Pixar
(Disney Pixar)

Why Are ‘Lightyear’s Box Office Earnings So Low?

Lightyear hit theaters on June 17, 2022, marking the fifth film in the Toy Story franchise. However, Lightyear is not a direct sequel to the Toy Story series, but a spin-off film instead. It provides the origin story for Buzz Lightyear—the fictional character who inspired the toy Buzz seen in Toy Story. Since the character Buzz and the toy Buzz are two different things, the voice of Buzz was recast, with Chris Evans taking over from Tim Allen.

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With an exclusive theatrical release and its link to the Toy Story franchise, Lightyear was expected to give a good box office performance. Unfortunately, though, it has failed to reach the success of the four previous Toy Story films by a long shot. Estimates had predicted Lightyear‘s opening weekend box office as $70-$85 million. Some estimates even had the prediction as high as $105 million. However, Lightyear had a modest $50 million opening and failed to topple Jurassic World Dominion‘s first-place spot at the box office.

Meanwhile, if you compare Lightyear with the second most recent Toy Story film, Toy Story 4, the numbers become even more disappointing. Toy Story 4 had a staggering $244.5 million opening worldwide and would go on to gross over $1 billion total. Similarly, Toy Story 3 also garnered a worldwide total of over $1 billion. Given Lightyear‘s modest opening, it’s highly unlikely its final earnings will be anywhere close to Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. Here are some of the reasons for Lightyear‘s low box office earnings.

Lightyear‘s film premise

Buzz Lightyear not trusting a robo cat. (Image: screencap from Pixar Trailer.) https://youtu.be/BwZs3H_UN3k

One of the major reasons for these box office numbers is the premise of Lightyear. It’s certainly not a bad premise, but it does make for a lack of connection to the Toy Story film series. As said above, Lightyear is not a direct sequel or prequel to the Toy Story film series. It’s also not an origin story for the Buzz who we know. Basically, it is a movie inside of a movie. The movie within Lightyear is a film about the action-hero Buzz Lightyear—which was one of Andy’s favorite movies. The toy Buzz would then be based off of the action-hero Buzz from the film.

You have to admit—it’s a little confusing. Viewers know that they’re not getting the actual origin story of the Buzz they know and they also know that they’re not going to be seeing any of their favorite Toy Story characters. It’s easy to see why not all of Toy Story‘s huge fanbase is turning up for this film.

Lightyear‘s reception

Another reason for Lightyear‘s low box office numbers may be its critical reception. Lightyear‘s reviews have been mixed-to-positive and it has a score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. That score isn’t bad at all, but it certainly isn’t close to the scores of the Toy Story films. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 boast a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes while Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 scored 98% and 97%, respectively. When a film receives a perfect, or nearly perfect, score, that’s a film that viewers feel like they have to see. Lightyear‘s score says, it’s a good film, but not necessarily one that viewers need to be rushing to the theaters to see right now.

Lightyear‘s competition

T-Rex in Jurassic World.
(Universal Pictures)

Lightyear also has some stiff competition at the box office. Jurassic World Dominion and Top Gun: Maverick have both been dominating since their releases. Jurassic World Dominion, especially, has been virtually unmovable from the top spot at the box office since its June 10th release. With three big films from three different big franchises playing at the theaters currently, it isn’t surprising that at least one of them is getting overshadowed.

Disney+

Another possibility that could be contributing to Lightyear‘s numbers is Disney+. Lightyear boasted an exclusive theatrical release, so it’s not on the platform yet. However, viewers can expect it to be on Disney+ likely before the end of the summer. Based on other Disney+ releases, we can anticipate Lightyear to have a 45-90 day window before it appears on the platform. Since Lightyear isn’t getting glowing reviews, it’s likely some Disney+ subscribers are waiting to stream the film instead of watch it in theaters.

After all, Lightyear has likely caused a bit of confusion with its theatrical run. That’s because Pixar’s recent films like Luca, Soul, and Turning Red all went straight to Disney+ and skipped the theater. Hence, it was a bit surprising for Lightyear to break that cycle and hit theaters. With viewers getting used to taking to Disney+ for their Pixar films, it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re waiting to do the same for Lightyear.

(featured image: Pixar)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.