‘Onward’ Opens to $40 Million as Domestic Box Office Shrugs Off Coronavirus

Overall U.S. box office numbers have yet to show a serious drop from the spreading virus, but overseas grosses are taking a big hit

Last Updated: March 13, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

Disney/Pixar’s “Onward” has taken a $40 million opening weekend, one of the lowest starts in Pixar’s 25-year history of feature films. However, it is unclear whether fears of the spreading coronavirus had any impact, as the overall box office has yet to see a serious week-to-week drop.

While year-over-year comparisons show a sharp drop of more than 50%, that is mostly because the $1 billion-plus hit “Captain Marvel” came out this weekend in 2019 with a $153 million opening. “Onward,” being an original title, had long been projected by trackers to open in the $40 million range even before the coronavirus had reached North America. While final totals for the weekend are still being tabulated, industry estimates for films grossing over $500,000 this weekend stands at $99 million, up from $93.8 million last weekend.

This shows that while coronavirus is still a growing concern in the U.S., it has yet to have an impact on moviegoer turnout even as events like SXSW have been canceled over public health concerns. Distribution execs who spoke to TheWrap say they are monitoring the situation on a day-by-day basis, adding that the ultimate barometer of the virus’ box office impact will come with the release of “Mulan” in three weeks.

As for “Onward,” this Pixar title was never expected to reach the heights of some of Pixar’s recent sequels. However, it has also fallen short of some original animated films that Pixar and Disney have released in recent years. Disney released “Zootopia” in early March four years ago and earned a $75 million opening weekend. “Onward,” meanwhile, is only the second Pixar film since the turn of the century to take an opening of less than $45 million, the other being the $39 million opening of “The Good Dinosaur” in 2015.

The good news for “Onward” is that reception has been much stronger than the tepidly received “Good Dinosaur.” Along with an 86% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences have given Dan Scanlon’s film an A- on CinemaScore and 4.5/5 on Postrak. With such strong results from families and younger adults, “Onward” has the potential — coronavirus notwithstanding — to leg out over the coming weeks as schools and universities go on spring break.

On the other hand, “Onward” is seeing its overseas numbers take a hit, as it grossed $28 million from 37 countries, leaving the film with a $68 million global opening that’s far below the $80-90 million that trackers had projected. Disney is downplaying the coronavirus’ impact in other countries, noting that the film has only opened in one market in Asia where the virus has spread the most, while taking No. 1 in 15 European countries.

However, markets in Western Europe are starting to see a sizable drop in audience turnout and are expected to do so for the foreseeable future, a trend that was a major factor in the decision by MGM and Universal to delay the release of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” from April to November. “Onward” is not set to release in Italy, Japan or Korea, three of the countries hardest hit by the virus, until mid-April. China, where the virus originated, does not have a release date for the film.

Back on the domestic side, Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” is in second on the charts this weekend with $15.2 million, a solid hold that gives it a 46% drop from its opening weekend and a 10-day total of $52.9 million domestic and $98.3 million globally.

In third is Warner Bros.’ “The Way Back” with an $8.5 million opening weekend from 2,020 screens. It’s a debut that’s on the lower end of recent films for lead star Ben Affleck, who has had a mixed bag outside of his two DC films as Batman. While he was part of a $37.5 million opening for the Oscar-nominated 2014 film “Gone Girl,” he has also seen opening weekends as low as $5.1 million for the 2017 wide opening of “Live by Night.” The good news is that reception has been strong for Affleck’s performance in “The Way Back,” receiving an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B+ on CinemaScore.

Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is in fourth as it prepares to pass both $300 million globally and the $144 million domestic run of fellow video game adaptation “Detective Pikachu.” With $8 million in its fourth weekend, the film now has a total of $140 million domestic and $295 million global. 20th Century’s “The Call of the Wild” completes the Top 5 with $7 million in its third weekend for a $57.5 million total.

Farther down the charts, Focus Features’ “Emma.” expanded to 1,565 screens and took in $5 million in its first wide-release weekend, giving it a total of just under $7 million after three weekends. Finally, Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” crossed $200 million in domestic grosses this weekend, earning $3 million in its eighth frame for a total of $202 million domestic and $415 million worldwide.

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