10 Reasons Why Elemental Bombed At The Box Office

Elemental is Pixar’s latest attempt at launching a successful new IP, but, unfortunately, the movie’s opening weekend box office numbers indicate that it’s another failure for the once prestigious animation film studio. The Pixar movie premiered on June 16, 2023, and depicts the lives of those who reside in the fictional Element City, where the four elements of matter — fire, water, earth, and air — live together but separate. Elemental draws inspiration from the immigrant experience and xenophobia that runs rampant in the real world while also delving into the romantic comedy genre.


During its opening weekend, Elemental earned $29.5 million at the domestic office and $48 million globally. Early projections predicted that the Pixar film would make $40 million domestically for its premiere weekend, and it severely underperformed even those low expectations. Sadly, Elemental is shaping up to be a box office bomb, similar to Pixar’s previous two theatrical releases — Onward and Lightyear.

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10 Pixar Is No Longer The Prestige Brand It Used To Be

Blended image of Ember with Wade crying in Elemental.

Whereas the ’00s and early ’10s marked a time of unprecedented success for Pixar, the movie studio has been in a rut for the past few years. Pixar was known for dealing hit after hit (Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, etc.) until the last ’10s and the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s when everything started to go downhill for the studio.

Onward was released on March 6, 2020, just weeks before the world shut down. Soul, Luca, and Turning Red skipped the movie theaters and went straight to Disney+. Lightyear was supposed to turn everything around in 2022, but its theatrical release was disappointing, to say the least, and now Elemental is following suit. While these movies aren’t bad, Pixar just isn’t making incredible hits like it used to, which explains why people aren’t showing up to see the newer films in theaters. Related: Is Elemental Suitable For Children? Parents Guide For Pixar’s Movie

9 Audiences Know To Wait For Pixar Movies To Go On Disney+

When Will Elemental Release On Disney Plus

Like many other production studios, Disney’s strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic was to send their films straight to streaming. Soul, Luca, and Turning Red debuted on Disney+ instead of having widespread theatrical releases, so now people expect every Pixar film to wind up on the streaming service sooner or later. Since this knowledge is readily available to consumers, they likely won’t spend extra money to see Elemental in theaters when they can see it at a later date on the streaming service they are already paying for. People are likely just waiting for Pixar to release Elemental on Disney+, and that’s partly why the box office numbers are disappointing.

8 Elemental’s Cannes Premiere Backfired

Wade's flashback in Elemental and the Elio Easter Egg

Pixar knows that their last couple of releases didn’t perform well at the box office. So in an attempt to learn from their mistakes with Lightyear, the animation studio debuted Elemental as the closing film at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May 2023 with the hope that the movie would gain some publicity from the event. Unfortunately, the reviews coming out of Cannes for Elemental were unfavorable and did little to build hype around the movie. Critics were not fans of the new Pixar film, and their harsh criticisms of the movie definitely didn’t do it any favors when it premiered worldwide in June.

7 Elemental’s Reviews Were Good… But Not GREAT

Voices of Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie in Elemental

Despite the Cannes critics who called Elemental one of Pixar’s worst movies, the rest of the reviews that flooded in the week of the premiere were eons better. They boosted Elemental‘s Rotten Tomatoes score from 57 percent to 80 percent, a tremendous step up from its early reception. However, in the grand scheme of things, the overall reviews didn’t meet Pixar’s standards despite mostly being positive. The critiques didn’t generate overwhelming hype that suggested people needed to see it in theaters, and so many didn’t.

6 Elemental Opened In A Very Crowded Summer Movie Window

Elemental Parents Guide Is it Suitable for kids

Another reason why Elemental performed so poorly at its opening weekend box office is because it premiered alongside a slew of other buzz-worthy titles. The Flash debuted on the same day as the Pixar feature, and other films such as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Little Mermaid, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Fast X, and more were also in theaters at the same time. The competition was too stiff, and Elemental couldn’t take the heat (pun intended). Related: Elemental Breaks A 5 Year Pixar Streak Before The Movie Even Begins

5 Across The Spider-Verse Is A Superior Animated Movie Choice For Families

Miles Gwen Peter B Parker Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse

Although there were many other films that Elemental had to compete with during its opening weekend, its biggest threat was undoubtedly Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and if someone had to choose between Elemental and Across the Spider-Verse, nine times out of ten, they’re picking Across the Spider-Verse. There is much more excitement surrounding the Sony film, given that it’s a sequel and the first movie was so well-received. Arguably, people are much more worried to stumble upon Across the Spider-Verse spoilers than Elemental spoilers, so it’s a must-see film, while Elemental isn’t.

4 Elemental Is An Original Movie in A Franchise Era

Elemental Pizza Planet Truck Easter Egg

Speaking of sequels, the world is currently in an era where franchises rule, and original films are brushed aside. The last Pixar movie to cross $1 billion at the box office was Toy Story 4, so it’s no wonder the studio is firmly determined to make a fifth one. Many want to know what they’re signing up for when they go to the movie theaters, and paying money to see an original film is scary since they know little to nothing about it. While Elemental has an intriguing premise, it has no ground to stand on, and movies like Across the Spider-Verse and The Super Mario Bros. Movie do.

3 The Box Office Is Struggling Generally

Elemental Budget Box Office

At the very base level of Elemental‘s box office struggles, Pixar isn’t to blame. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, people aren’t going to movie theaters like they used to, partly because they can usually easily watch the film in the comfort of their own homes. It’s more difficult than ever for a movie to be a box office hit — just look at The Flash‘s opening weekend numbers and the other 2023 disappointments (The Little Mermaid, Fast X, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, etc.). Elemental isn’t the only 2023 film to struggle at the box office, and it won’t be the last.

2 People Might Go See Elemental Later (But It Probably Won’t Be Enough)

Voices of Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis in Elemental
Voices of Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis in Elemental

Now that Elemental is out and has gained traction in terms of positive reviews (it even has an A score on CinemaScore), some who were hesitant to bite the bullet and buy a ticket may do so now. The Pixar feature will run in theaters through the summer months when kids are on their school break, so more people will see it, especially since the next big animated movie will be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and it doesn’t premiere until August 2. The bad news is that, despite this information, Elemental‘s slow start and huge budget mean that it will likely still be a box office bomb. Related: 12 Elemental Easter Eggs & Pixar References

1 Pixar’s Marketing Plan For Elemental Was Lackluster

Elemental Wade and Ember

The final reason for Elemental‘s disappointing opening weekend box office is Pixar’s marketing plan, or lack thereof, for the film. The studio needed to convince families that the movie was a must-see experience in theaters. Instead, the execution was no different from any other basic film marketing strategy — release the trailer and hope people see it. The marketing plan for Elemental needed to be unique enough to stand out among the crowded June releases, and it didn’t.

Source: CinemaScore

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