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‘Toy Story 4’ is expected to bring the summer box office to life with a franchise record

TOY STORY 4
Forky and Woody appear in Pixar Animation Studios’ “Toy Story 4,” which is expected to gross $140 million to $150 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend.
(Pixar)

After a three-week slump for Hollywood, it looks like theater owners have a friend in Pixar.

“Toy Story 4,” the Walt Disney Co.-owned computer animation pioneer’s latest sequel, is expected to open with $140 million to $150 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

That would easily nab a record box office opening for Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang, and inject some much-needed life into the local multiplex.

Recent duds including “Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black: International” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” renewed worries about the movie industry’s overwhelming reliance on sequels and reboots. Domestic grosses so far this year are still down about 7% from the same period of time in 2018, according to Comscore.

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But Pixar’s new dose of nostalgia should wipe away some lingering concerns about franchise fatigue.

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue

The original “Toy Story” put Pixar on the map in 1995, heralding the rise of computer-generated kids movies. “Toy Story,” directed by John Lasseter, opened with $29 million in ticket sales and ended up with $373 million in global receipts. (Disney distributed all the Pixar features and, in 2006, acquired the company for $7.4 billion.)

Since the early days, the revered “Toy Story” series has only grown in popularity. “Toy Story 3” opened in 2010 with a stellar $110.3 million, and eventually grossed $1.07 billion worldwide, more than doubling the performance of 1999’s “Toy Story 2.”

G-rated “Toy Story 4” is looking to continue that trend, with a mix of favorite old characters, including a returning Bo Peep, and new faces such as Forky, a child’s plaything made from a spork and craft supplies. The film is expected to ride a wave of multi-generational love for the series and rave reviews, indicated by a 98% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.

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It was directed by Josh Cooley, who was a 15-year-old aspiring cartoonist when he saw the original “Toy Story.”

Disney does not disclose budgets for animated movies, but Pixar’s films tend to cost $175 million to $200 million to produce.

‘Play’ nice?

As “Toy Story” draws families to cinemas, a very different toy-come-to-life franchise will make its return with the slasher film “Child’s Play.”

Yes, the knife-wielding doll Chucky is back in cinemas in a modern-day take on the late-1980s horror flick, from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios’ revived Orion Pictures label. The original “Child’s Play” became a low-budget horror classic in 1988 and spawned multiple sequels, including two later straight-to-video installments.In the new version, Mark Hamill (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) voices the red-haired, smart home-connected toy who terrorizes a single mother (Aubrey Plaza) and her son. “Child’s Play” is expected to launch with $16 million to $18 million Friday through Sunday, making its likely performance similar to Universal Pictures’ recent low-budget Octavia Spencer horror movie “Ma.”

The third new wide release this weekend is “Anna,” the latest female-fronted action-thriller from Luc Besson. The film, which Lionsgate bought U.S. rights to in 2017, became stuck in limbo when an actress went to French police to accuse Besson of rape in 2018. Police dropped the case after a months-long investigation, citing a lack of evidence. “Anna” is expected to open with $5 million or less.

A boon in China?

“Toy Story” should be a global hit as it opens in multiple foreign countries this week, including China, the second-largest box office market.

Last week, the highest-grossing U.S. movie in China was Sony Pictures’ “Men in Black: International,” which grossed a modest $25.8 million in the country, according to consulting firm Artisan Gateway. The latest “Men in Black” film, starring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, opened with about $30 million in the U.S. and Canada.

“Dark Phoenix,” from 20th Century Fox, suffered a steep drop in its second week in China, collecting $11.1 million compared with $44.9 million in its initial week, Artisan Gateway said. The superhero film’s decline mirrored its poor performance in the U.S., where it slipped 72% in its second weekend.

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

@rfaughnder


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