Both Pixar and movie theaters could really use a hit right now, and it looks like Inside Out 2 could be the answer to both of their prayers.

In early Thursday night previews, the sequel to Pixar’s 2014 animated hit earned an estimated $13 million. That’s the highest total for any Thursday opening for any 2024 release to date. Early estimates predict the film could make between $80 and $90 million over the weekend.

The original Inside Out grossed $356 million in U.S. theaters and $857 million worldwide.

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If Inside Out 2 can match or exceed expectations, it couldn’t happen at a better time, for either its studio or for the theaters showing it. Pixar is still reeling from the pandemic — when Disney shunted three of its films (LucaTurning Red, and Soul) direct to Disney+, and from Lightyear grossly underperforming in theaters in 2022. Last year’s Elemental got some of Pixar’s most negative reviews in history, but the film did become a word-of-mouth hit in theaters, in part because there were so few other movies in theaters for families at the time.

Pixar chief creative officer Pete Docter recently drew some criticism after he was quoted by Bloomberg saying that the studio recently went through “a real and intense period of self-scrutiny” and then determined that “the studio’s movies should be less a pursuit of any director’s catharsis and instead speak to a commonality of experience.”

Theaters face a general lack of product this summer thanks to last year’s dual writers and actors strikes, and box office has been way down so far in 2024. Several of the movies we have gotten have underperformed, including The Fall Guy and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, leading to a lot of fretting about the state of movie theaters, and of Hollywood in general. A big honking animated hit for the whole family would do a lot to quiet those voices for a little while at least.

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