'Inside Out 2' saved the summer box office — and proved Pixar was right to lean on sequels

'Inside Out 2' saved the summer box office — and proved Pixar was right to lean on sequels
  • Pixar's "Inside Out 2" opened to the biggest three-day weekend of 2024, grossing $155 million domestically.

  • It's the second-biggest domestic opening ever for an animated movie, behind "Incredibles 2."

  • A large screen count and playing it safe in the film's themes and content helped it succeed.

Disney proved it still has some box-office firepower this weekend with Pixar's "Inside Out 2." The film had the biggest three-day opening weekend of the year, grossing $155 million domestically and $295 million worldwide.

That's also the second-biggest domestic opening ever for an animated movie, behind another Pixar title, 2018's "Incredibles 2" ($182.6 million). For reference, the "Inside Out 2" gross is so good that it's only just behind last summer's domestic opening of "Barbie" ($162 million).

The 2024 summer movie season is gradually becoming the season of comebacks. Last weekend, audiences showed they were ready to forgive Will Smith for the Oscars slap and showed up to theaters in droves for "Bad Boys: Ride or Die," which topped the box office with an impressive $100 million-plus global opening.

This weekend's impressive box-office numbers for "Inside Out 2" prove that audiences want to see Pixar titles on the big screen despite years of self-inflicted mishaps, like releasing "Luca" and "Turning Red" straight to Disney+ in the pandemic and the botched marketing campaign for "Elemental."

Here are the three reasons "Inside Out 2" was a box-office success.

"Inside Out 2" is a sequel to a beloved Oscar-winning original

inside out
"Inside Out."Pixar

2015's "Inside Out" was a story about the warring emotions inside a girl named Riley. We watched Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger navigate her mind, leading to a hugely entertaining and emotional story (RIP, Bing Bong) that went on to win a Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Releasing a sequel to such an acclaimed original — even though it's been nine years since the first film — is a pretty safe bet for success. Hollywood loves to replicate a winning formula ad nauseam, and that's exactly what Pixar leaned on heavily here. In the sequel, Riley, now a teen, has additional emotions like Anxiety, Boredom, Envy, and Embarrassment. The core emotions from the first movie clash with the new ones, leading to more clever laughs that work for both kids and adults.

It's far from the first time that a sequel to an established Pixar title led to paydirt: "Incredibles 2" holds the record for the biggest domestic opening for an animated title ever with $182.6 million, and went on to earn over $1 billion worldwide for its theatrical run.

It's still too soon to say if "Inside Out 2" will reach the $1 billion mark, but its weekend success proves that familiarity is key in getting people to theaters.

After diverse stories in other Disney films sparked backlash, "Inside Out 2" plays it safe

Uzo Aduba voices gay character Alisha in "Lightyear."Disney/Pixar

From a same-sex kiss in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" to casting a Black lead in the live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid," Disney has spent the past few years showcasing LGBTQ+ characters and telling diverse stories.

That strategy shift wasn't received without controversy, as some accused the studio of pushing a political agenda. Pixar wasn't immune to the criticism: A same-sex kiss in 2022's "Lightyear" led a movie theater in Oklahoma to post a letter to its patrons saying it would attempt to "fast-forward" through the scene.

Whether it was a conscious decision or not, "Inside Out 2" doesn't feature anything overtly "woke." In fact, Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an April shareholder meeting that the company is focused on entertaining, not advancing "any kind of agenda."

Audiences are starving for good children's titles in theaters

Inside Out 2 characters looking at red button
"Inside Out 2."Disney/Pixar

Titles geared toward kids continue to be immune to any kind of box-office slump. Films like "The Croods: A New Age" and Disney's "Raya and the Last Dragon" were big earners during the pandemic; John Krasinski's imaginary friend movie "IF" has steadily been earning bank since opening in early May, recently crossing the $100 million mark domestically.

Since so few of these kid-friendly titles hit theaters each year, parents flock to them when they open. Combine that with Pixar's fan loyalty, and you have a hit.

"Inside Out 2" also opened at the perfect time — in many parts of the country, kids are out of school for summer break.

If you dig deep into the numbers this weekend, you'll find Disney's Mea culpa to Pixar: The studio released "Inside Out 2" on a whopping 4,440 screens, the most for any movie released this year to date and the most since last summer's "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," which was released on 4,600 screens.

Clearly, now that Pixar movies are back in theaters, they're going to be playing everywhere — and that strategy is working.

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