Disney-Pixar’s fantasy film “Onward” will cast a spell on North American moviegoers this weekend, opening with $38 million to $40 million at 4,310 locations, early estimates showed on Friday.

The figure is slightly below pre-release forecasts, which had pegged “Onward” for a launch in the $40 million to $45 million range. The movie centers on a pair of teenage elf brothers — voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — on a quest to resurrect their deceased father, who had arranged for them to receive a magic staff with a spell that will bring him back for 24 hours.

Ben Affleck’s sports drama “The Way Back” is projected to make around $8 million at 2,718 venues for the weekend, in line with forecasts, which had ranged from $6 million to $10 million.

Universal’s sophomore frame of Elisabeth Moss’ “The Invisible Man,” which has taken in $35 million in its first six days in North America, will finish second with about $14 million. The fourth frame of “Sonic the Hedgehog” will probably battle “The Way Back” for third place.

“Sonic” has been a solid performer for Paramount and should wind up the weekend with $140 million in North America after 24 days. The third weekend of Disney-Fox’s “The Call of the Wild” will follow in fifth in the $6 million to $7 million range. Focus Features’ expansion of Jane Austen adaptation “Emma,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy, will wind up in sixth with about $5 million at 1,565 sites.

If estimates hold, “Onward” should see inaugural weekend box office receipts similar to Pixar’s 2015 release “The Good Dinosaur” at $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. Several Middle East countries have banned “Onward” due to the film’s reference to a lesbian relationship.

Critical reception for “Onward” has been enthusiastic, earning the pic an 87% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe and Ali Wong round out 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 movie to debut during the March/early spring corridor; all other Pixar titles have been released in the summer or November.

“The Way Back” stars Affleck as an alcoholic construction worker who becomes the coach of a high school basketball team. The movie, which was previously titled “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor. Critics have been impressed so far, and “The Way Back” carries an 86% Rotten Tomatoes score.

 

 

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