When Pixar’s Elemental opened in June to under $30 million on its first weekend, most Hollywood types considered it dead on arrival. And why wouldn’t they? Pixar hadn’t had a hit in years—largely due to the pandemic, but still—and after releasing several titles on Disney+, most assumed the once infallible animation house had lost its magic.
Plus the opening weekend tells all, right? Wrong. Elemental bucked the trend and just keeps making money. Now, about six weeks after having the second-worst opening weekend in Pixar history, the film has grossed $400 million globally (about $146 million domestic and almost $260 million internationally). Not a smash, but a huge change from Pixar’s last theatrical release (Lightyear, which grossed about $220 million) and a big step up from Disney’s last several animated releases such as Encanto ($230 million) and Strange World ($70 million).
What happened exactly? Well, good word of mouth for one. People who have seen the movie like it. And, frankly, there’s not that much competition in theaters. Sure, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was a smash, but that’s kind of it for animated films so far. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken was a bust and while recent animated hits like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish were lingering, Elemental was the best bet for families. Oh, and it’s not yet on Disney+.
Basically, while Barbie will almost certainly end up being the big box office story of the summer, Elemental is a reminder not to write a film off immediately, especially if it’s good. Sometimes you can—but, on occasion, there’s just a special element about it.
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