In a surprise, last weekend’s #1 film JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION was able to hold onto its first-place crown by fending off a weaker-than-expected challenge from LIGHTYEAR. DOMINION earned $58.7M in the past three days, which was a steep drop of 60% from its opening weekend gross. This represents the largest second-week decline of any of the six movies in the JURASSIC PARK franchise.
Prior to this weekend, the record holder had been JURASSIC WORLD: the FALLEN KINGDOM, which opened on 6/22/2018 and suffered a 59% drop in its second weekend. A dark cloud hanging over last week’s successful opening was that DOMINION had an alarmingly low Rotten Tomatoes critics score in the 30s. The steep drop this weekend shows how these harsh reviews took their toll, and the film may only be able to limp along going forward. Thankfully, DOMINION sold well in worldwide markets last week, which should allow it to turn a profit.
The story of the weekend is that Disney/Pixar failed to take the top slot with LIGHTYEAR, which finished a disappointing second with a gross of $51M in 4697 North American theatres. This was well below most projections from industry experts, which had predicted grosses of $70M or greater. LIGHTYEAR marks a return to theatres for Pixar after Disney chose to release the studio’s last three movies on Disney+ exclusively: SOUL (12/25/2020), LUCA (6/18/2021), and TURNING RED (3/11/2022). This decision was based on Disney’s concern that the pandemic would deter a large portion of the family audience from moviegoing, and on the studio’s strategy to go “all in” to bring new subscribers to its streaming service.
This new direction did not go over well with exhibitors. Up until that time, Pixar had a track record spanning 25 years of delivering impressive performances at the box office, beginning with TOY STORY in 1995 and continuing up to and after its 2006 acquisition by Disney. Pixar was a reliable contributor to helping theatre owners hit their yearly targets. Exhibitors were incensed each time over the past 18 months when Disney announced that the next Pixar movie would skip theatres.
However, Disney announced in November that it was returning to its theatrical roots, beginning with the in-house production ENCANTO, which debuted in theatres on 11/25/21 and went on to gross $256M. LIGHTYEAR was supposed to mark the triumphant return of Disney/Pixar to theatres, with an expected first-place finish on its opening weekend and an overall gross shooting up to $200M and beyond. This weekend’s lackluster performance – despite an 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes – will now lead to a “Pandora’s box” of reflection on whether Disney hurt the Pixar brand by consigning its last three features to Disney+ and how it should direct its release strategy going forward.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK continues to defy gravity, taking third place this weekend with a gross of $44M, only a slight drop of 15% from last weekend’s performance. As it begins its fourth week in theatres, the TOP GUN sequel has now racked up $466M to become the highest-grossing picture of 2022. And it seems quite possible that heartwarming numbers will continue over the weeks to come while the more recent openers JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION and LIGHTYEAR collapse around it. A total run of $500M is almost guaranteed, with an even higher target of $550M possible.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS finished fourth with $4.2M. The latest Marvel release has now grossed $405M and is trailing only TOP GUN: MAVERICK as the year’s highest-grossing picture.
The total box office for all films in theatres this weekend was $163.2M, which was 121% of the gross turned in by the same weekend in 2019.