And this is where it all starts to go wrong for 2020's box office.
By Tim Briody
March 8, 2020
Okay, sure, the looming threat of the coronavirus has some people on edge about large gatherings of people in contained spaces, but when even Pixar can't work its usual magic, there's some problems.
Onward wins the weekend very easily, but with a tepid $40 million. Believe it or not, that's the fourth lowest opening weekend for a Pixar film ever. There have been 22 Pixar features to date, and the two lowest opening weekends belong to the first two films they ever produced (Toy Story and A Bug's Life), which were from a completely different box office era. Removing those from the equation, Onward has essentially tied 2015's The Good Dinosaur ($39.1 million) for the worst opening weekend in Pixar's history.
So what happened? No, not coronavirus . Despite strong reviews (86% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and an A- CinemaScore), Onward seemed to be lacking the big hook that most Pixar films have (I'm reminded of the "what if X had feelings?" meme from a few years ago, culminating in Inside Out, which is "what if feelings had feelings?") and while it does go for the emotional gut punch, the fantasy setting was a little less accessible than some of their recent efforts. Also it's worth noting that this is the earliest any Pixar film has released in a calendar year. They've typically staked out June (when Soul, their other film this year is out) or November as release dates. Onward could have been impacted by kids being in school.
The good news here is that it despite the soft opening, Onward should see legs, at least for the first few weekends. Even The Good Dinosaur legged it out to $123 million, and that's probably the best case scenario for Onward right now.
The Invisible Man drops 46% to $15.1 million and $52.6 million in two weekends. That's a good hold for the genre, though even if it had fallen 60% it would still be good news here, as it only cost $7 million to make. Add in the overseas grosses and it's approaching $100 million worldwide. It's going to be one of the most profitable films of the year when it's done.
The other new wide release this weekend is The Way Back, a sports drama starring Ben Affleck. With $8.5 million, it's third for the weekend, but since the inspirational story is entirely fictional and not even loosely based on a true story, you get the feeling that it could've been more. The Way Back (not a sequel to The Way, Way Back) got decent reviews (87% Fresh) and Affleck's performance was lauded (supposedly main character's journey from alcoholism resonated with him), but sports films are usually tough sells, especially when they're not biopics. With a budget of about $25 million, it's probably going to get that back in theaters, but not much more.
Sonic the Hedgehog does get cut in half, probably because of the presence of Onward, but takes in $8 million and has an impressive $140.8 million in four weekends. That's still a great total for one of the more surprising hits of the year.
The Call of the Wild continues it's "this would be fine if it didn't cost $150 million to make" run with $7 million in its third weekend and $57.4 million to date. Seriously, this cost $150 million to make?
Expanding from limited release to 1,565 theaters, an adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Emma earns $5 million for the weekend. Starring Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch, Split, Glass), it's gotten positive reviews (85% Fresh) and and while it's a period piece, the audience it was going for probably wasn't alive when the most famous adaptation of the novel was released (that would be 1995's Clueless). The domestic market is secondary here, as it has done well in its native UK and crosses $20 million worldwide with the weekend here. That's acceptable for something like this.
Just like we all predicted, Bad Boys for Life becomes the first January release to cross $200 million, as it earns $3 million in its eighth weekend, bringing its total to $202 million.
Wrapping us up this week, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey earns $2.1 million in its fifth weekend and has $82.5 million total. Impractical Jokers: The Movie earns $1.8 million (down 49%) and has $9.6 million in three weekends, and My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising drops 74% but clings to a top ten spot with $1.5 million and $12.7 million after two weeks.
This weekend's top 12 films earned $95 million. And to show that the wheels are about to fall off in comparison, this is the weekend that Captain Marvel opened last year. With that film's $153.4 million opening, last year's top movies earned $200.3 million. While Onward was probably the third biggest release of this month (A Quiet Place Part II and the live action Mulan are coming soon), it's not a good start.
The studios effectively punt next weekend with Vin Diesel in apparent comic adaptation Bloodshot, and the long delayed and supposedly controversial political satire The Hunt.