‘Inside Out 2’: Mammoth $155 Million Opening Puts Box Office Recovery Ahead of Schedule

June was supposed to be a month where the box office fell below the industry average in grosses ahead of a more robust July. The mammoth opening weekend of Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” has changed that.

Projections had the sequel to Pete Docter’s 2015 Oscar winner matching its predecessor’s $90 million opening weekend. Exhibition sources told TheWrap that was too low, but even their most optimistic expectations were in the $115-120 million range, similar to the $118 million launch of Disney’s top grossing film last year, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

Instead, “Inside Out 2” has blasted to a $155 million domestic start, the second highest North American opening ever for an animated film behind only the $182.6 million start of fellow Pixar sequel “Incredibles 2.” Globally, “Inside Out 2” has passed that film to set a new all-time animated record with $295 million worldwide.

The Pixar film was able to over-perform so much because it attracts a substantial number of people who don’t go to the movies often. According to film consultant company Vista Group, 54% of moviegoers who saw “Inside Out 2” were “infrequent” moviegoers, meaning they had gone to cinemas less than twice in the last six months. By comparison, infrequent moviegoers made up a much lower 32% of the opening weekend crowd for the first “Inside Out.”

This frequency might be skewed by the lower number of films that have been in theaters in the last six months due to strike-related production delays, but it does suggest that Disney and Pixar were able to attract audiences that weren’t sold on other recent titles.

“We’ve been fighting against Newton’s Law of Audience Behavior for months now,” said Jeff Kaufman, SVP and chief content officer of Malco Theaters. ‘Garfield’ and ‘IF’ were helpful in getting some families back, but they weren’t ‘Doctor Strange 2.’ We needed a film that would get the entire audience back, and now that they’re back, there’s plenty more on the way to keep them coming back.”

With next weekend’s release slate devoted to specialty films like Focus’ “The Bikeriders” and Searchlight’s “Kinds of Kindness,“ “Inside Out 2” has a clear runway to pass $500 million worldwide by then and become Disney’s highest grossing animated release since the pandemic — as it tries to pass the $857 million total of the first “Inside Out.”

The Pixar film now has the potential for box office earnings that only Universal/Illumination’s “Despicable Me 4” was expected to reach among this year’s family offerings.

That can only mean good things for theaters, as more moviegoers than expected got to see trailers for all the other family films coming out in the second half of 2024, including “Transformers One,” “Moana 2,” “The Wild Robot” and “Mufasa.”

Combined with the excellent $33 million second weekend of Sony’s “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” — a 42% drop from its opening — theaters saw the overall weekend domestic total skyrocket to $215 million. Not only is that the best of the year so far, it also ranks among the top 5 highest weekends since theaters reopened in March 2021.

To get a sense of how significant this weekend was, the year-to-date total for the domestic box office improved from 26% behind last year’s pace to 23%.

The best-case scenario is that this increases the momentum for an already red-hot “Despicable Me 4,” which is expected to blow past $100 million over its extended five-day Fourth of July opening weekend. Combined with secondary support from “A Quiet Place: Day One” at the end of June, the box office should have multiple films that will combine to reach all sectors of the moviegoing audience. It will get even more help when “Twisters,” “MaXXXine” and the behemoth “Deadpool & Wolverine” attract adult audiences over the course of July.

Rather than priming the pump for a big rebound month, “Inside Out 2” has started the rebound several weeks early, and optimism is high for the second half of the year. While some segments of the remaining 2024 slate are lighter than others — August is skewed towards R-rated fare like “Borderlands” and “Alien: Romulus” — fall titles like “Beetlejuice 2” and “Venom: The Last Dance” should prevent the box office from falling back into the slumps seen in February and May.

Greg Marcus, President/CEO of Marcus Theaters, isn’t too keen on predicting the future, but he sees the successful Father’s Day weekend as not too dissimilar from the incredible bonanza that was “Barbenheimer.”

“That was just a whopping 300 days ago. Things haven’t changed: People want to go to the movies!” he said. “We said from the theatrical side that studios needed to deliver more films, and we’re still saying it now.”

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