‘Inside Out 2’ hits $155 million domestic debut, second-highest animation opening ever


In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust meet new emotions.
Disney | Pixar

Disney and Pixar brought a big dose of joy to the box office this weekend.

“Inside Out 2” debuted with an estimated $155 million domestically, the second-highest theatrical opening of an animated film and the first film since Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” to top $100 million during its debut.

Of note, Disney does not consider its 2019 live-action remake of “The Lion King,” which generated $191.7 million during its debut, an animation film.

“Inside Out 2” is expected to haul in $295 million globally for the weekend.

“Let’s issue a collective ‘welcome back’ to Disney, Pixar, and the summer box office,” said Shawn Robbins, founder and owner of Box Office Theory.”

Both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation struggled to regain a foothold at the box office after pandemic restrictions lessened and audiences returned to theaters. Disney had opted to debut a handful of animated features directly on Disney+ and so parents were trained to seek out new Disney titles on streaming, not in theaters, even when they did return to the big screen.

Compounding Disney’s woes, many audience members began to feel that the company’s content had grown overly existential and too concerned with social issues beyond the reach of children.

“Many narratives have been written about the two studios and moviegoing in recent times, so this powerful debut by ‘Inside Out 2’ is a breath of fresh air,” Robbins said.

The film is the fifth Pixar feature to surpass $100 million during its debut in North America and the second-biggest opening weekend ticket seller for the studio just behind 2018’s “The Incredibles 2,” which tallied $182.6 million. Around 12 million patrons flocked to cinemas to see the flick, according to data from EntTelligence.

“This is clearly a big win for theaters,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “It’s an even bigger win for Pixar.”

The theatrical industry has struggled this year with fewer titles, as production shutdowns from the pandemic were exacerbated by a dual labor strike that closed movie sets for nearly five months last year. The result has been a 26% decline in ticket sales compared to 2023 and a 42% drop from 2019 levels, according to data from Comscore. Heading into this weekend, the domestic box office stood at $2.8 billion.

While there have been some standout performances from films like Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “Dune: Part Two,” Warner Bros. and Toho’s “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” and Universal’s “Kung Fu Panda 4,” the 2024 box office has struggled to hit a consistent pace of releases and ticket sales.

Missing from this year’s early summer slate for the first time since 2009 was a Marvel Cinematic Universe title. Typically, these films average $100 million to $200 million openings, with 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” hitting a record $357.1 million. Instead, this year, Universal’s “The Fall Guy” opened to $28 million.

Fewer films and fewer blockbusters could push the summer box office down as much as $800 million compared with 2023, according to Comscore’s Dergarabedian, and have ripple effects for the whole year. After all, the key summer period, which runs from the first weekend in May through Labor Day, typically accounts for 40% of the total annual domestic box office.

“Inside Out 2” is a bright spot for the industry. It boasts the biggest domestic debut of 2024, surpassing “Dune: Part Two” and its $82.5 million in opening weekend ticket sales.

“Does this performance wipe away all concerns of evolving consumer behavior? Of course not, but it should stay the hand of those thinking Disney or Pixar had permanently lost their commercial gravitas after an overly aggressive streaming strategy and undercooked films which together eroded some of their audiences in the past few years,” Robbins said.

And some heavy hitters are coming to close out the summer and finish up the year.

“Deadpool and Wolverine,” Marvel’s first R-rated feature, is due in theaters in July and is expected to deliver a strong opening weekend as well as a steady stream of ticket sales throughout its run.

Then “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” arrives in early September, “Joker: Folie a Deux” hits in October alongside “Venom: The Last Dance,” and November sees “Gladiator II,” “Moana 2” and “Wicked.” Additionally, December will have “Kraven the Hunter,” “Sonic the Hedgehog 3″ and “Mufasa: The Lion King.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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