Disney-Pixar’s fantasy film “Onward” launched with $2 million in North America on Thursday night in preview shows.
The number is in the same range as “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” which opened with $2.3 million in previews in June and went on to a $47 million launch weekend.
“Onward” is expected to dominate domestic moviegoing this weekend and collect between $40 million and $45 million at 4,310 sites. The movie centers on a pair of teenage elf brothers — voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — on a quest to resurrect their dead father, who had arranged for them to receive a magic staff with a spell that will bring him back for only 24 hours so his sons can meet him.
Critical reception has been enthusiastic, earning the film an 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe and Ali Wong are also in the voice cast. “Monsters University” helmer Dan Scanlon directed “Onward” from a script he wrote with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. “Onward” is the first Pixar film to debut during the March/early spring corridor; all other Pixar titles have been released in the summer or November.
if estimates hold, “Onward” should see inaugural weekend box office receipts similar to Pixar titles such as 2017’s “Coco” ($50 million), 2017’s “Cars 3” ($53 million) and 2015’s “The Good Dinosaur” ($39 million). “Onward” has already generated $3 million globally — and $650,000 in North America — from several early screenings that Disney hosted on Leap Day. Internationally, the film is opening day and date in many territories other than Italy, South Korea and China, where the coronavirus crisis has hit hardest.
Ben Affleck’s sports drama “The Way Back” is also launching this weekend amid downbeat forecasts of between $6 million to $10 million from 2,718 venues — a lackluster start given its A-list leading man. Warner Bros. opted to forego Thursday night previews.
Affleck plays an alcoholic construction worker who becomes the coach of a high school basketball team. Warner Bros. had originally dated the film to open last October, but pushed it back to this year. The movie, which was previously titled “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor. Affleck is a producer on the film, along with O’Connor, Jennifer Todd, Gordon Gray and Ravi Mehta. The movie also stars Al Madrigal (the assistant coach who believes in Affleck’s character), Janina Gavankar, Hayes MacArthur, Brandon Wilson and Rachael Carpani.
Critics have been impressed so far, and “The Way Back” carries an 85% Rotten Tomatoes score. The film is likely to finish behind the second weekend of Elisabeth Moss’ “The Invisible Man,” which has taken in $35 million in its first six days in North America. The fourth frame of “Sonic the Hedgehog” will probably battle “The Way Back” for third place.
“Onward” and “The Way Back” are opening amid the coronavirus crisis impacting businesses and causing schools to close around the United States. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, said there has been no discernible impact so far on the bottom line for moviegoing.
“This weekend is important because every movie theater in North America is open for business and ‘Onward,’ ‘The Way Back’ and a strong slate of holdovers will look to draw audiences who are seeking the traditional escape that the movies provide,” he added.
Overall 2020 North American box office totaled $1.61 billion as of March 4, up 2.4% over the same period in 2019, according to Comscore.