Toy Story 4 brought the US box office to life with a US$118 million ($177.6m) opening weekend after a three-week slump of underperforming sequels, but the Pixar film's below-expectations debut didn't quell concerns about a rocky northern-summer movie season.

The Toy Story 4 opening, according to studio estimates yesterday, ranks as the fourth-highest animated film opening ever, not accounting for inflation. Above it are 2018's Incredibles 2 (US$182m), 2016's Finding Dory (US$135m), and 2007's Shrek the Third (US$121m). It's the year's third-largest debut, trailing only a pair of other Disney releases: Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel.

But a US$140-US$150m opening had seemed assured for Toy Story 4, which played in 4575 North American theatres. Adjusted for inflation, the film came in shy of the US$110.3m — or about US$129m in today's dollars — Toy Story 3 made nine years ago.

The opening for Toy Story 4 followed a string of disappointing sequels including Dark Phoenix, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Men in Black: International. But Toy Story 4 had something those films didn't: great reviews. It rates 98 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

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- AP