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'Onward' Conjures $2 Million at Thursday Box Office

Ben Affleck's "The Way Back" also opens wide this weekend

Disney and Pixar's "Onward," the latest original film from the animation studio after several years of blockbuster sequels, made $2 million at the box office in Thursday night previews. It opens on over 4,200 screens this weekend. This adds to the sneak peak total of $650,000 the film brought in on Leap Day.

"Onward" is one of two original films Pixar has planned for this year, the other being "Soul" this summer. That makes "Onward" the first Pixar movie released in the spring, and also the first original title the studio has put out since "Coco" in 2017. Projections for the movie are sitting around $45 million, but it could climb higher up to at least $50 million if word of mouth is strong, and the A-list cast of "Avengers" alums Tom Holland and Chris Pratt voicing the leads shouldn't hurt either.

While "Coco" was the last original Pixar film, it's not necessarily the best comparison seeing as it opened over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2017. It made $2.3 million in its previews and went on to a $50.8 million opening. A closer point of reference might be the Disney animated original "Zootopia," which opened in March 2017 and made $1.7 million in its previews on its way to a $75 million start.

Some other comparisons: "The Secret Life of Pets 2" made $2.3 million Thursday and did a three-day $47 million open, "The Lego Batman Movie" started with $2.2 million on Thursday and made $53 million in its opening, "Boss Baby" made $1.5 million in previews and opened to $50 million, and "Trolls" made $1 million on Thursday and opened to $47 million. As is the case with any family film however, preview numbers are far less reliable than your standard blockbuster, as the films primarily make their money in matinees over the weekend with younger audiences.

"Onward" is set in a fantasy world populated by mystical creatures who now all live in modern suburbia. The story follows two elf brothers, played by Holland and Pratt, who learn that their late father was once a wizard. For the youngest brother's 16th birthday, the father leaves his son a magical staff that will allow them to summon their father and say their goodbyes. But when the spell goes wrong and they accidentally summon only his bottom half, the brothers go on a road trip to recover the rest of their father before the spell wears off.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Lena Waithe and Ali Wong co-star in the film that's directed by Dan Scanlon based on a screenplay Scanlon co-wrote in honor of his own father along with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. While "Onward" doesn't have the stellar reviews of some of Pixar's best films, it does have a strong 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Also opening wide this weekend is "The Way Back" from Warner Bros., an inspiring drama starring Ben Affleck as a Midwestern basketball coach battling alcoholism and personal trauma. The film did not open in Thursday night previews. "The Accountant" director Gavin O'Connor directed the film, and it has an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Finally, the Jane Austen adaptation "Emma." is expanding wide this week into 1,550 theaters nationwide. Autumn de Wilde directs the comedy that stars Anya Taylor-Joy. It has an 85% score on Rotten Tomatoes.