4th Update, Sunday AM writethru final w/chart: Disney/Pixar’s Onward saw an estimated $16.56M on Saturday, a growth of 37% over Friday’s result, putting this morning’s industry estimate for the pic’s U.S./Canada opening at $40.4M. Disney is calling the weekend at $40M.
While that result is at the lower end of Pixar openings and the pic’s tracking, even for one of the Emeryville, CA studio’s original movies, don’t blame the coronavirus scare for these results. Pixar has set a high bar for itself at the box office which it will always continually compete against, and unfortunately this time around, it’s Onward itself here that isn’t working. At least in the states, overseas is another story.
Onward came in with $28M from 47 material territories, for a 62% footprint of the foreign market. That’s far below the $40M-$55M our overseas prognosticators were forecasting. That puts the global start of Onward at a paltry $68M. There’s concern here that coronavirus fears have curbed business in SouthEast Asian territories (like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand) in the wake of China and South Korea’s grappling with the current crisis, and of course what’s going on in Italy is causing greater alarm in Western Europe.
However, all theaters are open in the U.S. and Canada, and many of those in distribution tell me that if a four-quad movie like Disney’s Mulan greatly misses its mark, that’s when the industry will have an even greater worry whether coronavirus fears are impacting ticket sales stateside.
There are several signals that we’re seeing that it’s business as usual out there right now in the U.S./Canada:
First, Saturday’s business was up for all movies over Friday, with the top 10 seeing an average 61% spike. More dollars were spent, hence more people went out. Onward‘s Friday came in better than expected, with $12.1M over the $11.3M we spotted on Friday evening.
Next, the overall box office this weekend for all titles is now looking to do $103.4M according to Comscore this morning in the tenth frame of 2020, which is 4% higher than last weekend.
Even though this weekend’s box office will be off significantly from previous weekend 10s, i.e. 2019 (-51%, when Captain Marvel opened), 2018 (-26%, the 4th weekend of Black Panther), 2017 (-38%, when Kong Skull Island opened), 2016 (-36% when Zootopia debuted), that’s because those were mega four-quad event films, which Onward is not, and was never expected to be. Versus weekend 10 of 2015, when Chappie bombed, this weekend’s B.O. is +16%. So any slowdown here with Onward and the domestic weekend box office (versus previous weekends) boils down to product, not coronavirus.
Despite all the headlines about big conferences canceling as corporations put a ban on their employees traveling, anecdotally, if you step away from the TV news or the mania at any Walmart/Costco that’s sold out of toilet paper and water, you’ll see that life is pretty normal out there. Bringing life down to a micro-universe in the West Hollywood/Melrose area, restaurants were overfilled on Wednesday night. I flew out of Burbank, CA Bob Hope on Friday en route to Albuquerque, NM, with a pit stop in Phoenix, AZ, and there were normal crowds, long lines at TSA, with full flights. There wasn’t a situation where several people were coughing or sneezing, nor was anybody wearing medical masks. It felt safe.
Pixar has continually defied expectations for the openings of their own original movies where other studios struggle, i.e. Finding Nemo, Inside Out, being highs. However, sometimes in their soulful creative reach, they get too arty (i.e. Ratatouille with $47M) or too young (The Good Dinosaur, at a $39.1M 3-day).
There’s a reason why Onward isn’t playing the prime summer season, and that’s because it looks like an offbeat film. Even though the movie notched great reviews at 86% certified on Rotten Tomatoes, an upbeat response from exhibition, and great PostTrak exits of 4 1/2 stars for general crowds and parents and 4 stars from kids under 12, there’s something keeping people away, and it’s clearly the fact that the movie looks the animated version of fanboy card game Magic the Gathering.
In the materials (and this isn’t marketing’s fault because it’s just the goods they have to work with it), there’s no soulful hook to pull you in; a reason why those in exhibition and distribution are more hopeful about this June’s Pixar movie Soul. For a story about two teenage boys looking to spend one more day with their dead father, some believe that drawing the protags as ugly elves is too much of a repellent. Why not portray them as humans? Not to mention, deep dive into some of the reviews and you’ll see that while critics enjoy Onward, they admit it’s not up to Pixar’s platinum standards.
RelishMix adds that on social, that potential moviegoers think “the journey/quest story line feels a bit tired. For others, the story, the characters, or the Disney brand have recently upset them for some reason or another. For others, this entry to the Pixar filmography does have its unpopular elements from the portrayal of the characters to the ‘borrowing’ from other pop culture favorites.”
Also, a big indicator that Pixar crowds aren’t overly wowed by what they see: in a rare moment, Onward earned an A- on CinemaScore, arguably the last time that happened for the north California animation house was on Cars 2. Pixar movies typically get an A or A+ CinemaScore. Nonetheless, these grades will get Onward to about $125M stateside. IMAX and PLF screens accounted for 19% of Onward‘s gross so far, while 3-D was only 7.5% to date. The pic played best in the West and South-West.
Disney reports in their Sunday AM demos that Onward pulled in 58% families, 42% general audience with 52% females and 48% males. Fifty-one percent were under 25, 49% over that age. Thirty-five percent of the audience was under 12.
In sum, rivals say that they’re not surprised at the results here for Onward: It’s a movie that they guessed could have overperformed on the Pixar brand into the $50Ms, and also underperformed for what it inherently is. Social media metrics were strong, according to RelishMix, with 366M across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which is ahead of the average family animated film. Holland and Pratt have been promoting the film aggressively, especially to their combined social media following, which is near 80M. Again, should there be any misstep in Onward‘s grosses here, don’t blame the Disney marketing machine, which was firing on all cylinders. It’s a product situation.
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I really can’t say enough good things about my friend Tom Holland. He’s dashing, charming, handsome, he’s an amazing dancer, like could ACTUALLY save the universe in a dance off, an incredible talent but more importantly a really good bloke. Humble, kind and good at golf. Basically. I hate him. You know? Like… enough is enough. Anyways. See us in #Onward this week.
Warner Bros.’ Ben Affleck drama The Way Back was moved to this date from the fall to capitalize on the March Madness basketball season. The pic is coming in the low end of where tracking was seeing it at $8.5M, in 3rd place after a $3.5M Saturday that was up 34%, that was against a pure Friday of $2.6M that didn’t have any previews. Warners is hopeful that older adults come out in the long run as the pic skewed 43% over 50 on CinemaScore and 64% over 35. Final domestic B.O. according to rivals will be around where this movie cost before P&A: $23M.
This was a personal drama which Affleck has reflected upon in interviews, but the film’s paltry opening has nothing to do with waning star power at all, as he’s had his highs and lows. “To his credit, this film industry veteran has championed his successes and failures in recent interviews, talking about everything from this current movie to his family troubles and addiction, too,” reports RelishMix.
As I’ve written all along, drama is hard at the box office, especially when a film is outside the 4Q awards season and doesn’t have that momentum. We’ve over-written how Warners has been all thumbs in launching adult, non-event fare since the fall. We’ll see if HBO Max changes the fate of these movies going forward after it launches in the spring. The Burbank, CA studio looks to Scoob! and Wonder Woman 1984 in respectively May and June to elevate them onto a new course (that is if the coronavirus doesn’t prompt a landslide of release date changes).
The film’s storyline, about an alcoholic, isn’t really encouraging throngs of moviegoers to go, unfortunately–even at 88% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Later trailers from Warner Bros. have tried to amp up the basketball heroics of the film.
RelishMix saw a mixed reaction on social to The Way Back, with some “yawning at the more serious take on the sports movie genre and comparing the movie’s materials to Mighty Ducks, Coach Carter and other sports themed movies – which carries a two-edged sword effect. Speaking of two sides of a coin, Affleck has his detractors, too. They see this starring turn, and the interviews and related sentiment suggests the question, ‘Where’s the fun here?’ With March Madness, not to mention the NBA Playoffs fast approaching, this movie seems like a missed opportunity to this segment.”
Exits were a B+ on CinemaScore last night,and with PostTrak exits less than that at 3 1/2 stars and a 53% definite recommend. Men over 25 who liked the drama the most at 79% turned up at 41%, with females over 25 at 39%, who gave it a 76% grade. Males under 25 repped 11% of ticket buyers, while females under 25 were 9%. The mix was 65% Caucasian, 11% Hispanic, 10% African American, 14% Asian/Other. The Way Back played best on the coast but even there it wasn’t amazing.
Focus Features expansion of Emma from 97 locations to 1,565 in 216 markets was quick and fast in weekend 3 (typically on Focus Features platform releases, they’ll go wider further down the road in a release). With a weekend of $5M in 6th place, the pic is doing all right for a wide arthouse break, and besting its exit scores of a B Cinemascore and 3 stars on PostTrak, with a 44% definite recommend. I hear East Coast grosses were best for the Autumn de Wilde-directed feature, but also OK. Business was up on Saturday by 15% to $1.9M from Friday’s $1.68M. Still at this wide break, that’s a better result than that of Mary Queen of Scots ($2.1M north of 1K screens), Zookeeper’s Wife ($2M at 1K screens), and Victoria & Abdul ($2.1M at 1k screens).
Sunday morning studio-reported numbers:
Weekend B.O. March 6-8
Chart based on Saturday AM industry estimates:
Box Office For March 6-8
2nd Update, Friday 5:14PM: Disney/Pixar’s elfin adventure movie Onward in 4pm numbers is looking at $11.3M today, and between $37.5M-$40M over 3-days at 4,310 locations.
While that’s on the lower end of an original Pixar movie, in the neighborhood of Ratatouille ($47.5M), and the 3-days of Good Dinosaur ($39.1M) and A Bug’s Life ($33.2M, the latter two titles being 5-day Thanksgiving launches), blasting off original animated features can be an uphill battle. It’s clearly a reset year for Pixar with no sequels to their storied IP in the mix and another original movie Soul on Father’s Day weekend, June 19-21. The first How to Train Your Dragon opened to $43.7M, a start that was dinged by many box office analysts at the time, and it wasn’t clear at the onset that that movie would spur a trilogy that earned over $1.6 billion. Working to Pixar’s advantage this weekend is that their films play beyond kids to older, post 8PM audience (more than the average animated film does) and the potential bigger bounce they’ll get tomorrow since spring breaks are ramping up. Should the pic have a huge Saturday, that could take it back to the mid $40M range which was at the lower-end of tracking. Friday’s $11.3M includes last night’s $2M previews with the running total at the high end with Leap Day previews at $40.65M.
And any underpeformance stateside for Onward doesn’t necessarily indicate a coronavirius scare among moviegoers, but it will be interesting to see how overseas does. While $40M-$50M was the going range for most B.O. experts, some aren’t surprised if this particular Pixar title comes in under $40M.
Universal/Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man is seeing a $4.2M Friday, -58%, on its way to a $14M second weekend at 3,610 theaters that’s down 50% for a 10-day total by Sunday of $51.5M.
Warner Bros.’ Ben Affleck basketball high school coach-alcoholic drama The Way Back is eyeing a $2.5M Friday, sans Thursday night previews, and a $8.3M opening at 2,718 in 3rd place. Pic cost $21M before P&A.
Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog in weekend 4 at 3,717 is looking at $1.75M today, -50%, and a 3-day of $8M, -51% for a running total of $140.8M.
Disney/20th Century Studios’ Call of the Wild is seeing $1.7M in its third Friday, -50%, for a 3-day of $6.75M, -50%, for a running cume by Sunday of $57.1M.
Focus Features’ wide break of their revisionist Jane Austen adaptation Emma is taking 6th place at 1,565 venues, for a Friday of $1.85M, +430%, and a 3-day of $5.75M in weekend 3 and running total of $7.6M by Sunday.
1st Update: Disney/Pixar’s Onward made $2 million on Thursday night in box office previews, according to the Burbank, CA studio, from shows that started at 6 PM.
Previous previews around this range include Disney’s Dumbo ($2.6M, $45.9M opening), Monsters University ($2.6M, $82.4M opening), Moana (which previewed on a Tuesday before Thanksgiving with $2.6M, 3-day of $56.6M, 5-day much greater due to Thanksgiving with $82M), Lego Batman Movie ($2.2M, $53M opening), Zootopia ($1.7M) and Big Hero 6 ($1.25M, off 7PM shows, $56.2M opening).
The expectation is that Onward opens to $40M+ at 4,310 theaters, down from the $50M we were seeing earlier this week. Many are curious whether the coronavirus scare will curb business at the box office, and looking at last night’s figures, it doesn’t look like it did. Plus, all movie chains are open.
Remember, spring breaks begin their rollout this weekend with Comscore saying 4% of K-12s are out today, moving to 12% Monday. That said, there was a great turnout by parents and kids under 12 last night, according to Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits, which showed a combined 52%-48% general audience.
So far, it’s a great response to the Dan Scanlon-directed animated feature, with general audiences giving Onward 4 1/2 stars, parents a fantastic 5 stars, and kids under 12 (largely boys at 61%), an OK 3 1/2 stars. Overall guys under 25 lead at 29% followed by guys over 25 at 28%, then females over 25 at 23% and females under 25 at 20%. Diversity demos showed 52% Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, 12% Asian, and 8% African American.
Onward‘s theater footprint includes 400 Imax screens, 800 Premium Large Format screens, 2,300 3D locations, and 240 D-Box/4D screens. Last Saturday, for Leap Day, Disney held matinee previews for the Chris Pratt-Tom Holland movie at 470 locations in North America, reportedly selling out many shows and earning $650,000 in single 3 PM showings. That money will be rolled into the first weekend’s total.
The weekend’s other wide entry, Warner Bros’ Ben Affleck drama The Way Back, did not hold previews last night, which as been standard of late for the studio with its adult-leaning fare. That Gavin O’Connor-directed movie is expected to file in the high single digits, possibly $10M.
Outside of Onward‘s preview, among those pics in regular release, Universal/Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man earned $1.8M yesterday, -9% from Wednesday for a first week of $37.5M. That’s 25% behind Uni/Blumhouse’s Get Out, which ended its first week with $49.8M. No. 2 went to Disney/20th Century Studios Call of the Wild with $850K in its second Thursday, -4%, for a second week of $17.6M and a running total of $50.3M. Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog made $815K, -8% in its third Thursday, for a third week of $20.4M, running total of $132.7M. Sony’s Bad Boys for Life was fourth with $345K, -1%, for a seventh week of $5.9M, running total of $198.98M. It’s gotta go over $200M this weekend.
Fifth is Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey with $325K, -6% in Week 4 of $5.6M and running total of $80.3M. In sixth is Funimation/Sony Pictures TV’s My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising with $300K, -43%, a first week of $7.7M, and running total through nine days of $11.1M.
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