Nolte: Box Office Slump Continues as ‘Toy Story 4’ Underperforms


Toy Story 4 is a hit, a big hit at the box office with the second best-ever opening for an animated film. But it still missed the mark.

The low-end projection was for a $140 million opening. Box Office Mojo expected $165 million. But there was a ton of talk about a potential $170 – $200 million, or at least a smidge over the current animated record-holder: The Incredibles 2, which opened to $183 million at around this same time last year.

Instead, Toy Story 4 is projected to open to $136 million. Nothing to sneeze at, and word of mouth could add a few million before Monday morning. But that’s not the shot in the arm the box office needed or anticipated.

As of Thursday, the 2019 box office is 8.8 percent behind 2018, 2.6 percent behind 2017, 1 percent behind 2016, and less than one-half of one-percent ahead of 2015.

A string of outright flops and unexpected disappointments — Men in Black: International, Dark Phoenix, Rocketman, Shazam!, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Shaft, Late Night, Secret Life of Pets 2, Booksmart, The Hustle, Long Shot, Hellboy — have so far tanked the summer (so far) and year in ways no one expected. The bright spots have been far and few between.

 Toy Story 4 is a bright spot, just not the super nova everyone counted on.

As far as how this weekend will perform compared to this same weekend last year, Toy Story 4 fell short of the $148 million Jurassic World 2  opened with over the weekend of June 22, 2018. Backing up Jurassic World 2 was another big hit, The Incredibles 2, which earned $80 million in its second weekend to deliver an overall weekend that cleared $271 million. All Toy Story 4 has to back it up are a bunch of flops, so we can expect this year’s box office to fall even further behind last year.

And no reinforcements will arrive for another two weeks, at least until Spider-Man: Far From Home arrives to take on the Fourth of July.

Also underperforming this weekend is the Child’s Play remake no one asked for. Expectations for a $17 million debut fell short with an actual $15 million.

Men in Black: International, which opened to a disastrous $27 million, collapsed 60 percent in its second weekend. After ten days, the spin-off sits at a pathetic $54 million.

So why wasn’t Toy Story 4 the phenom everyone expected?

Tim Allen in Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar, 2019)

Well, to begin with, I think it was unfair to place such a big burden of the four-quel. The Incredibles is an entirely different franchise, an action series with a side order of family drama. Toy Story is a children’s franchise, which kids and adults (like myself) love, but it is not going to attract the teenage crowd in the same way as The Incredibles.

The fact that Toy Story is in its fourth chapter and over-performing its predecessors is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, all this wishcasting about breaking the $180 to $200 million mark dimmed an otherwise stellar debut.

The Incredibles 2 went on to gross an incredible $608 million domestic. Toy Story 4 won’t come close to that and may not even top the $415 million Toy Story 3 earned in 2010. But it is a big hit, it is a wonderful movie that deserves to be a hit, and it should be judged on its own merits, without the burden of the whole box office year on its shoulders.

Here’s the thing, though…

Even if Toy Story 4 had opened with $500 million, with $1 billion, with $50 billion, it would not have done the overall movie industry a whole helluva lot of good because what we have here it yet another Disney hit.

Disney has Disney, has Marvel, has Pixar, has Star Wars, and now has everything 20th Century-Fox…  Disney has already gobbled up more than a third of the box office pie this year; has earned more money that its closest two competitors combined, and still has The Lion King (July 19) , Maleficent 2 (Oct. 18), Frozen 2 (Nov. 22), Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20) warming up in the bullpen, along with a piece of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2).

If 2019 pulls out of this dive, it will be Disney’s doing alone. The rest of the film industry will still be licking its wounds, especially after the death of so many golden goose franchises, deaths that will have long-lasting repercussions for years to come.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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