BOX OFFICE BULLETIN: ‘Onward’ and Upward

Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, respectively) in Onward | PIXAR

Pixar’s Onward claims the top spot in this weekend’s box office totals. Including its Thursday night previews, Onward grossed over $40 million domestically over its initial three-day weekend, which might seem like a very good haul for an animated feature film… But everything in context. Pixar Animation Studios has built a reputation for some of the most popular animated movies of all time. The last Pixar movie to gross under $50 million domestically in its opening weekend was Ratatouille in 2007. Including the international box office, Onward grossed approximately $68 million in its first three days. To put things into perspective, the last two Pixar feature films, Toy Story 4 (2019), and Incredibles 2 (2018) grossed $120 million and $182 million, respectively, in their opening weekends. Out of Pixar’s 23 animated feature films, Onward sits at 18th in opening weekend numbers. The film is receiving mostly positive reviews from critics (I personally highly recommend seeing Onward), and audiences seem to be really enjoying the movie as well. CinemaScore awarded Onward an A-, while the audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently sits at 96% with over 3,750 reviews at the time of this article.

So what happened? Don’t be surprised when the answer might be something as simple as the Coronavirus (even though the Coronavirus issue is anything but simple). Onward did not have the support of international audiences like most other Pixar films. The movie did not debut in any region of the world that is currently being impacted by the Coronavirus—including one of the biggest international box offices, China. In 2019, Toy Story 4 enjoyed a box office bump of over $13.2 million from China in its opening weekend. Expect this to be a trend as more movies continue to release this year. Some studios are trying to avoid these box office disappointments by delaying their releases (see: James Bond, and My Spy), hoping for things to settle down globally concerning the Coronavirus.

Elizabeth Moss in a scene of The Invisible Man | Universal Pictures

Universal’s The Invisible Man dropped 46% from its opening weekend, but still managed to take second place over newcomers The Way Back and Emma. In its second weekend, The Invisible Man brought in an additional $15 million domestically, bringing its global total to $98 million. Undoubtedly an impressive feat seeing the movie’s production budget was a mere $7 million. This is a huge success for Universal Pictures and their abandoned franchise (Dark Universe) that, like the phoenix, has somehow been reborn and risen from the ashes of The Mummy (2017). Director Leigh Whannell has proven that ‘Universal’s Classic Monsters’ do not need the star power of Tom Cruise nor the production budget of a Marvel superhero movie to succeed. The more grounded and intimate character driven approach of The Invisible Man will hopefully help steer the direction of the upcoming ‘Classic Monster’ movie reboots in Dark Army, and Frankenstein.

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) coaches his high school basketball team in a scene of The Way Back | Warner Bros.

Rounding out the Top 3 is Warner Bros. The Way Back. Ben Affleck returns to the big screen after two previous roles in Netflix original movies, The Last Thing He Wanted (2020) and Triple Frontier (2019). The Way Back grossed just over $8.5 million domestically. Even though Ben Affleck has the star name and star talent to go along with this movie, it seems as though Warner Bros. wasn’t too concerned with spending resources in marketing this movie more to the public, and that’s a shame. In recent interviews, Affleck has opened up and shared intimate details of his life and his personal struggles over the last few years, and how much this film meant to him personally. Affleck most certainly cared about this movie; it would have been nice to feel as though Warner Bros. cared about it too.

Number 4 on this weekend’s top box office numbers was Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which grossed just under $8 million in its fourth weekend. Its global total now sits at $295 million (not including China, Japan etc.). Number 5 is 20th Century Studios’ The Call of the Wild with $7 million domestically. The Harrison Ford starred movie unfortunately is set to lose the studio over $50 million. Like some of the aforementioned movies in today’s bulletin, marketing and global health concerns have played major factors in this movie’s financial failures.

Here’s a look at how other movies still showing in theaters are performing:

Emma$5 million domestically, $6.8 million worldwide total (Emma just debuted in its first weekend)

Bad Boys For Life$202 million domestically, $415 million worldwide total.

Birds of Prey$82 million domestically, $195 million worldwide total.

Brahms: The Boy II$11.7 million domestically, $18.1 million worldwide total.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire$3.3 million domestically, $8.8 million worldwide total.

*Note: All financial data is provided courtesy The Numbers, my favorite source for box office data.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
About the Author
Founder of Backseat Directors. Host of The Backseat Directors Podcast, and The Mega Movie Show! Continually surprised that he's getting older and not forever 24. Quit the corporate life to pursue his passions and spend more time at home. Grateful for the talented team at Backseat Directors, and for all the incredible work they do. Lover of movies, the BYU Cougars, Amy Jane and Groucho. Let's go to the movies!
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