‘Elemental’ Projected to Earn $40 Million Box Office Opening, Ranking Among Pixar’s Lowest

Only two of Pixar’s 23 theatrically released films have ever opened to less than $40 million


The first round of box office projections for Disney/Pixar’s “Elemental” are not looking good, as the original title about a city full of fire, water, plant and air beings is tracking for one of the worst opening weekends in Pixar history.

Currently, “Elemental” is projected for an opening weekend of around $40 million. In the near-30-year history of Pixar feature films, in which 23 have been released theatrically, only two have earned three-day openings of less than $40 million. The first was “The Good Dinosaur” — also from “Elemental” director Peter Sohn — which opened to $35 million over three days on Thanksgiving weekend 2015.

The second film was “Onward,” which opened to $39 million in March 2020 on the weekend just before COVID-19 shut down theaters for a year. Since then, the only Pixar film to get a full theatrical release is last year’s “Toy Story” spinoff “Lightyear,” which flopped with a $50.5 million domestic opening and a final total of $118 million domestic and $226 million worldwide against a $200 million budget before marketing costs.

Projections can change greatly in the three weeks between the first round of tracking and release, but Disney has work to do convincing audiences, especially families, to come out for “Elemental.” The wild success Universal has enjoyed with films like Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” even if they had the advantage of being based on established IP, shows that families have already returned to theaters. Now Disney must convince them to do the same with an original Pixar film, something that was an easy layup for families in the 2000s and early 2010s.

Having stronger reviews than “Lightyear” would certainly be a good place to start, and Disney is hoping to get that by screening “Elemental” on the final day of the Cannes Film Festival this weekend. Of course, there’s a chance that this could backfire if it gets mixed reviews like Lucasfilm’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” got from Cannes critics last week, but a strong reception could be the start to at least get “Elemental” on the radar of some adult audiences, particularly parents.

But beyond that, Disney must get families interested again in seeing their movies on the big screen after spending the pandemic offering well-reviewed Pixar titles like “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” as Disney+ exclusives. Such a focus on streaming was done under the directive of former CEO Bob Chapek, but studio insiders say that Chapek’s departure and the return of Bob Iger has led to a renewed focus on theatrical with longer windows for animated titles such as “Elemental” and Disney Animation’s 100th anniversary film “Wish,” due out Thanksgiving weekend.