Joy for Pixar as Inside Out 2 smashes expectations – and box office records

<span>Inside Out 2 has already made back its $200m budget.</span><span>Photograph: Pixar/AP</span>
Inside Out 2 has already made back its $200m budget.Photograph: Pixar/AP

Inside Out 2, Pixar’s belated sequel to the 2015 animation about the emotions controlling an 11-year-old girl, has far exceeded ticket sale predictions for its opening weekend. The film, which opened across the world on Friday, had been optimistically tracking to hit $90m (£71m) at the US box office; in fact it hit $155m (£122m).

This makes it not only the highest-performing film of the year so far (leaving Dune: Part Two’s $82.5m (£65m) in the dust) but the first movie since last year’s Barbie ($162m/£127m) to make over $100m on its opening weekend.

Related: Inside Out 2 review – Pixar returns to emotional Mission Control for Riley’s teen years

Internationally, the film’s performance was also impressive: it took $140m (£110m), bumping Frozen 2 ($135m/£106m) into second place as the biggest overseas animated opening of all time.

The film’s global total is now $295m (£232m), meaning it has now made back both its original $200m (£157m) budget and the considerable marketing spend.

Inside Out 2, set two years after the original, sees a new set of emotions invade the head of its heroine, Riley, as she hits puberty, with Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawke), ousting Joy (returning Amy Poehler) as commander-in-chief, accompanied by new sidekicks Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy.

The core emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust – are dispatched to the back of the mind, from where they must attempt to return to headquarters before Riley’s sense of self is entirely dismantled.

Pixar’s successful gamble on audience investment in the continuing story will come as a considerable relief in Hollywood, where anxiety had been increasing over the year’s lacklustre takings. The likes of The Fall Guy, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and IF all opened low and failed to rally, contributing to a soft early summer season whose profit lows were last seen in 2000.

The studio itself will be particularly pleased: chief Pete Docter (who directed the first Inside Out) had voiced fears that the release of pandemic titles such as Turning Red, Soul and Luca straight to Disney+ had habituated audiences to reliance on streaming.

Inside Out 2 scored the second biggest opening in Pixar history, behind the 2018 Incredibles sequel

This, he argued, explained the relatively weak theatrical runs for Lightyear (2022) and Elemental (2023). Yet Inside Out 2 scored the second biggest opening in Pixar history, behind the 2018 Incredibles sequel ($182m/£143m) and ahead of the 2016 followup to Finding Nemo ($135m/£106m) and the fourth Toy Story movie in 2019 ($120m/£94m).

Docter’s original film ended up making $356m (£281m) in the US and $859m (£678m) globally, as well as receiving an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay and a win for best animated feature. Reviews for the sequel have also been strong, if not quite as besotted as before. Inside Out 2 has an A rating on CinemaScore – which tracks the opinion of exiting cinemaogers – and 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Outside the US, turnout for the film was especially strong in Latin America, where it chalked up the second biggest opening of all time behind Avengers: Endgame. It made $30.2m (£23m) in Mexico, $14.9m (£11m) in South Korea and $13.9m (£10m) in the UK. It is yet to open in major markets such as France, Italy, Spain, China and Japan.

Hopes are now high that other sequels will help spur the year back to a healthy box office, starting with the fourth Despicable Me movie, in three weeks. Other key follow-ups include Joker: Folie à Deux, Gladiator 2 and the R-rated Deadpool and Wolverine – the only superhero offering over the holiday period.