Universal/Focus Features Top Plodding Weekend Box Office as Trade Group Warns of Exhibitor Bankruptcy Without Congress Help

Universal Pictures’ specialty films unit Focus Features saw two of its releases — Let Him Go and Come Play — top another sluggish domestic weekend (through Nov. 8) undermined by wary moviegoers and scant major new studio titles due to the ongoing pandemic.

The yearly domestic box office topped $1.978 billion through the weekend — largely based on theatrical releases prior to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down all screens in mid-March. That’s down more than 75% from last year.

New release Let Him Go, which stars Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as a Montana couple who seek to rescue their grandson from a dangerous living situation, topped the weekend with $4.1 million in ticket sales. It was followed by $1.7 million in box office receipts for horror film Come Play, which has generated $5.6 million after two weeks of release.

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Both titles are earmarked for early PVOD release as part of Universal’s landmark agreement with AMC Theatres enabling the studio to offer theatrical releases to consumers in the home three weekends after their big screen launch. AMC gets a share of the direct-to-consumer revenue.

Rounding out the podium was The War With Grandpa, the 101 Studios’ family comedy starring Robert De Niro that took in $1.5 million to reach $13.4 million after three weeks. Liam Neeson drama Honest Thief grabbed $1.1 million to help the Open Road Films title reach $11.2 million after four weeks of release.

Disney/Pixar Animation’s catalog title Toy Story finished fifth with $500,000 in ticket sales — nearly 25 years after the animated classic was first released.

In a media interview, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, warned that without an immediate fiscal lifeline from Congress, the exhibitor industry could face a wave of bankruptcies. The industry is pushing “Save Our Stages,” a bipartisan addendum to a larger stimulus bill languishing on Capitol Hill.

“Even though we’re allowed to open in 48 states, without a substantial slate of big movies, and with people still worried about the virus, our revenues have been decimated,” Fithian told Variety. “We’re losing money while operating. And we were shut down entirely for many, many months. It’s life or death for many, many, many theater companies.”

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

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The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.

 

‘Toy Story 4,’ From Disney, Pixar, Gets Home Release Dates

Toy Story 4, the year’s No. 4 movie at the box office, will become available for home viewing in October, the Walt Disney Co. announced Aug. 22.

The animated film, with a domestic gross of $425 million, will arrive on digital Oct. 1, with a Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release following on Oct. 8.

The fourth film in the “Toy Story” franchise is a sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3, which took in $415 million in North American movie theaters. The franchise was launched in 1995 with Pixar’s original Toy Story, the world’s first fully computer-animated feature film. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.

Toy Story 4 features an all-star voice cast that includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves and Joan Cusack.

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The home editions of Toy Story 4 contain more than an hour of bonus features celebrating Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the franchise’s other iconic characters. Extras includes deleted scenes such as an alternate ending; a new featurette that chronicles Woody and Buzz’s friendship through the years; studio stories shared by members of the Pixar team; a nostalgic look back at the creation and first storyboard screening of Toy Story with filmmakers; and a documentary on the pioneering efforts of Pixar artists who created the sets, characters, look and feel of the original film.

In Toy Story 4, Woody (Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s new craft-project-turned-toy Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) calls himself “trash,” Woody decides to teach Forky how to embrace being a toy. But a road-trip adventure, including an unexpected reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), shows Woody how big the world can be for a toy. New additions to the cast of animated characters include carnival prizes Ducky (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Peele) bring a new level of fun to the film.

The fourth installment in the “Toy Story” series will be packaged several ways for home consumption. Toy Story 4 arrives home a week early on digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD with two exclusive extras, including a deleted scene, “Bonnie’s Playtime.”

A week later, fans will be able to buy physical copies of the film on disc, also in various incarnations: as a 4K Ultra HD combo pack (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital code), a Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital code) and a single DVD.

Also available is a digital bundle of all four films.