The latest Pixar release, Elemental, did worse than projections. It posted the worst opening weekend at the box office in Pixar’s entire history.
According to The-Numbers, the film grossed $29.5 million at the domestic box office and another $15 million internationally for an absolutely catastrophic global opening of $44.5 million.
The film was originally predicted to have an opening weekend between $28 million and $39 million by Box Office Pro back in May. However, the outlet would later claim the film would gross between $31 million and $41 million. They specifically noted the film would earn $33 million.
Variety would also report the film would gross $35 million in its opening weekend domestically.
The $29.5 million domestic number for the opening weekend makes the film the worst performing opening weekend haul in Pixar’s entire history. The previous worst performing film was the original Toy Story film that released back in 1995. That film grossed $29.1 million. However, if you adjust for inflation that comes to $58.1 million.
Another poor performing Pixar film was Onward, which grossed $39.1 million back in 2020. However, Onward released in March 2020 right before the pandemic crisis occurred that resulted in theaters completely shutting down.
The Good Dinosaur had an opening weekend of $39.1 million in 2015. Ratatouille opened with a $47 million opening weekend back in 2007, and last year’s Lightyear had an opening of $50.5 million.
Disney scooper and analyst WDW Pro also notes that “something like half the audience going to see Elemental versus the previous worse situation that Pixar faced, [The Good Dinosaur].”
He makes that calculation by looking at the average ticket price for films in 2015, the year The Good Dinosaur released, and current ticket prices in 2023. In 2015, according to The-Numbers the average ticket price was $8.43. The average ticket price in 2023 is $10.45. The Good Dinosaur grossed a total of $114.7 million domestically and sold 13,614,108 tickets.
Not only did the film bomb at the box office, but Pixar boss Pete Doctor was already making excuses for it before it arrived in theaters.
Speaking with Variety Doctor said, “In the long run, there’s been a bit of a mixed blessing [releasing movies to Disney+] because we’ve trained audiences that these films will be available for you on Disney+. And it’s more expensive for a family of four to go to a theater when they know they can wait and it’ll come out on the platform.”
He added, “We’re trying to make sure people realize there’s a great deal you’re missing by not seeing it on the big screen. In the case of Elemental, it’s a beautiful spectacle, there’s detail everywhere. I think you feel it more and it’s a better experience.”
“There’s the shared experience as well, that you get to see it in a room with strangers, and there’s something about the energy that comes from other people that makes the whole experience more vibrant and interesting,” he concluded.
Doctor also explained that Pixar is no longer about child programming, “We’ve always looked at what we do as we’re the first audience. We make stuff we want to see ourselves. There’s a Chuck Jones quote that I love and he said, ‘We like to make films that are simple enough for adults, but sophisticated enough that kids will find them interesting too.’ It’s just the switch on what you’d expect.”
“We all have kids and we know that kids are going to watch them, but we want to find something at the heart of all these movies that speaks to us as human beings so there’s something there for the parents. We’ve had that approach from the very beginning,” he detailed.
Later in the interview he provided more details about how they approached Elemental, “The first thing as we’re developing the story is probably the more adult aspect of the thing, trying to tap into something that appeals to our common experience as human beings: The loss of loved ones, becoming a parent, and the struggle between duty and love. Those are things that I think kids may or may not have gotten to that point yet, but the adults really resonate with that.”
“With the layers, we go in, and we try to do physical and verbal comedy. We look at the visual puns and approach as many different venues as we can, so that there’s really something there for everybody. That’s the hope,” he added.
What do you make of Elemental’s performance at the box office and Doctor’s excuses?