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‘Inside Out 2’ jolts a sleepy summer box office

Pixar

It was a weekend no doubt filled with Joy for Disney. The studio’s latest animated film, “Inside Out 2,” has rocked the lethargic summer box office, becoming the first movie of 2024 to reach $100 million in domestic sales during its opening weekend.

Heading for a $155 million weekend per Comscore estimates, the movie marks the most lucrative box office opening since last July’s “Barbie,” which grossed $162 million. According to Comscore and Disney, “Inside Out 2” has also cinched the No. 2 spot for the all-time highest domestic animated three-day opening, lagging less than $30 million behind 2018’s “Incredibles 2.” It also beat “Dune: Part 2” as the highest-grossing opening of 2024 so far.

“This performance came in well above our expectations,” said Daniel Loria, editorial director at Box Office Pro, which collects sales and showtime data from thousands of movie theaters across the United States. “We imagined it could … maybe match ‘Toy Story 4’s’ $120 million opening weekend, but this result is absolutely extraordinary.”

Industry experts agree this weekend was a turning point for both Disney and the overall domestic box office. The summer has been off to a lukewarm start following a devastatingly low turnout Memorial Day weekend, which traditionally kicks off the season.

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Shawn Robbins, founder and owner of Box Office Theory, called this opening weekend a “well-earned victory lap for Disney, Pixar, and movie theaters.”

“Disney is still in the early phases of its refocused theatrical prioritization,” he said. “Time will tell what original (intellectual property) can accomplish in the future and how consistently they can generate these types of performances again, but this is a major rebound for the parent company and for Pixar after a string of underperformers on both sides.”

In addition to production delays that have plagued studios as a result of the multi-month-long Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes last year, Disney’s recent Marvel fare has been lackluster.

“Deadpool & Wolverine,” the only Marvel property release this summer, is expected to reinvigorate audience enthusiasm after “The Marvels” disappointed last November with a $47 million opening weekend. The third R-rated installment featuring the foul-mouthed anti-hero is set to hit theaters July 26.

“The story of the summer was always going to come down to how Pixar (‘Inside Out 2’) and Marvel (‘Deadpool & Wolverine’) rebounded,” said Loria.

Domestic box office totals since the beginning of May are still down by about 28% compared to this time last year, according to Comscore data. But senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian said “Inside Out 2” marks a “major turning point” for theaters, adding it only takes “one or two overperforming films to change the entire narrative.”

“This the best possible news for Pixar, movie theatres and indeed rival studios whose own upcoming summer films (including the family friendly ‘Despicable Me 4’) will enjoy the tailwinds brought on by the amount of interest and increased foot traffic at the multiplex,” Dergarabedian noted.

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