Disney/Pixar’s “Onward” is heading for a $40 million opening weekend after making an estimated $12.1 million on Friday from 4,310 screens. While that hits the lower end of the $40-45 million pre-release projections set by Disney and independent trackers, it would still stand as one of the lowest opening weekends ever for a Pixar release.
Only three films in Pixar’s history have ever opened to less than $40 million — two of them were the studio’s first pair of films, “Toy Story” in 1995 and “A Bug’s Life” in 1998. Because of inflation, the only true comparison for “Onward” is “The Good Dinosaur,” which opened to $39 million in November 2015.
In terms of March animated releases, “Onward” is well short of the record set by the Disney animated film “Zootopia,” which opened to $75 million in 2016.
The good news for “Onward” is that reception for the film is very strong. After receiving an 86% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics, the film has won over audiences with a 4.5/5 on Postrak, an A- on CinemaScore, and a 97% Rotten Tomatoes audience score. While pre-release buzz may not have been as strong for “Onward” as past Disney and Pixar animated films, these scores are a sign of strong word of mouth that could help the film endure on the box office charts. That is what happened for Pixar’s last original film, “Coco,” which opened to a $72.9 million extended opening on Thanksgiving weekend and legged out to a $209 million domestic run.
Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” is in second with an estimated $14.3 million second weekend, a 49% drop from the film’s $28.2 million opening that gives the film a $51.8 million domestic total after 10 days. In third is the other new release of the weekend, Warner Bros.’ sports drama “The Way Back,” which is hitting the lower end of tracker projections with an estimated $8.4 million opening from 2,718 screens. Critics have praised lead star Ben Affleck for his performance, giving the film an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score to go with a B+ on CinemaScore.
In fourth is Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which will pass the domestic theatrical total of fellow video game adaptation “Detective Pikachu” this coming week. Now facing heavy competition for family audiences from “Onward,” the film grossed $8 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total to $140 million, just shy of the $144 million earned by “Detective Pikachu” last year.
In fifth is 20th Century Studios’ “The Call of the Wild,” which is taking $7.2 million in its third weekend for a $57.6 million total. Outside the Top 5, Focus Features expanded its Jane Austen adaptation “Emma.” to 1,565 screens after two weeks in limited release, earning an estimated $5.4 million this weekend for a $7.2 million total. Finally, Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” will cross $200 million domestic after making $3 million in its eighth weekend in theaters.