Pixar’s Onward opened to $40 million according to initial estimates, The Numbers is reporting. While not a terrible debut by any stretch, the take is well below where tracking had it, and makes for one of lower premieres for the pioneering animation studio. It’s also worth noting that those figures could change significantly once final figures come in tomorrow afternoon, as the current box office climate is unpredictable in the wake of the Coronavirus scare. Did people stay home from theaters this weekend out of fear of getting sick?
The answer to that question, of course, probably doesn’t have a definitive answer. But what can safely be said was that Disney went into somewhat uncharted territory with Onward, as it’s the first Pixar film they have ever released in March (all of their previous movies have either come out in November or during the lucrative summer season). The Mouse House was likely hoping that Onward would perform similarly to 2016’s Zootopia, which had the same release date and managed a whopping $75 million. That film, however, had a 98% “freshness” rating at Rotten Tomatoes and months of anticipation backing it up, whereas Onward–for whatever reason–couldn’t seem to get the hype train going in its favor.
Even though it doesn’t open until June, Onward is already living under the shadow of Pixar’s upcoming Soul, which was named one of Fandango’s Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2020 and has a lot of positive buzz surrounding it. Onward is also arguably the first “true” animated feature film from Disney and Pixar to come out since John Lasseter left the company at the end of 2018. Yes, Toy Story 4 and Frozen II have opened since then, but both of those movies were ones he had been heavily involved with prior to his departure (and were also sequels to highly successful properties he was considered largely responsible for).
For this reason along with it being Pixar’s first non-sequel since 2017’s Coco, pressure has been on Onward for it to deliver. And make no mistake, the movie fared fine with critics–our own James gave it an extremely glowing review–and it got a great “A-” CinemaScore from audiences. But its bittersweet storyline involving two teenagers going on a mission to try to bring their dead father back to life was always going to make it a bit of a tough sell, so it will be interesting to see where Onward goes from here.
Elsewhere at the box office, Sonic the Hedgehog is still speeding along, and has become one of the more surprising box office hits of recent memory. After months of fighting off negative reporting, it currently has $140 million in the bank, and should eclipse Detective Pikachu as the biggest video game adaptation ever before its done. The Call of the Wild, meanwhile, continued to do “fine” business, and now has a total of $57 million after three weekends.
Final figures are due tomorrow.