Despite the growing concern about the coronavirus, the global business for Disney/Pixar’s elf fantasy feature Onward should turn out to be solid.
To date, there aren’t any theaters closed in the U.S. nor do sources expect any in the near future — and certainly not in a grave way like in China, which has seen its nationwide exhibition infrastructure shut down, heading to a $2 billion-plus loss at the country’s box office. With a stable situation stateside, Onward, boosted by great reviews of 85% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, is in the space to overperform with exhibition believing a $50 million-plus domestic three-day opening, out-powering the pic’s mid-$40M tracking projection. Previews start Thursday night at 6 PM.
In 47 offshore markets, repping 60% of the foreign footprint, Onward is looking to do $40M-$55M, for a worldwide start between $90M-$105M. How low Onward goes this weekend offshore will indicate how intense fears are among moviegoers. Key markets launching include France (which has some cinemas closed), the UK, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Germany where the Tom Holland-Chris Pratt feature premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Australia joins in April in addition to Japan, Korea and Italy. The latter two would have been included in the opening suite, but saw their dates shifted due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
That said, we’re hearing that Italian cinemas are gradually re-opening. China, which is not typically a massive Pixar market, is on hold as it is for all titles amid the Middle Kingdom cinema shutdown.
Directed by Monsters University filmmaker Dan Scanlon, Onward follows two teenage elf brothers who embark on a quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in the world. Some will write that Onward is Disney’s first feature release of 2020, but if you want to get technical, it’s not; that belonged to 20th Century Studios’ Kristen Stewart disaster Underwater. We get specific here because Disney, going forward, will count the box office from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight movies in its annual box office grosses.
In the states, in the first-choice category, Onward is tracking just higher than Disney’s 2016 original animated toon Zootopia, which also opened during the first weekend of March and overindexed in its opening to $75M, spurred by its humor and social cultural message and besting its $60M-$70M projections. While spring break goes into effect this weekend with 4% K-12 out on Friday and 12% on Monday (higher than the 3% and 5% which Zootopia had on both days, respectively), forecasts remain lower on this original Pixar film. While I’ve heard some demo numbers on tracking are higher than Inside Out, we need to remember it’s not a June release.
Overseas comparisons to also bear in mind for Onward do include Inside Out, which did $59M in like-for-like markets at opening and in today’s dollars (it likewise debuted at a major festival, Cannes in this case, and then benefited from being a summer release); Big Hero 6 which bowed to $42M; Coco, which did $46M; and Zootopia, which debuted to $61M. On Inside Out, the ultimate biggest markets were the UK, Korea, Japan, Germany, Mexico and France. Big Hero 6 did best in China, Japan, the UK, Russia, Korea and Spain. Coco saw its top performances in China, Mexico, Japan, France and the UK. Finally, Zootopia wowed in China, followed by Japan, Russia, France, the UK and Korea.
Given that most of those markets are facing coronavirus issues, Onward could face hurdles — as is the case for all movies releasing during an unprecedented situation. The hope is that the positive word of mouth can help.
Disney held Onward sneak previews in the UK this past weekend which were tied to Leap Year and traded off the idea of “What if you had just one more day?” From just the Saturday showings, Onward landed No. 3 at the weekend box office locally, behind Sonic the Hedgehog and The Invisible Man. Those monies will be rolled up into Onward‘s upcoming weekend. In terms of overseas promotion, Scanlon was in Madrid and London for premieres in February (the latter with Holland). He also appeared with local voice cast in Rome and was in Berlin for the world launch.
Also going wide this weekend is Warner Bros’ Ben Affleck drama The Way Back from director Gavin O’Connor, about a former high school basketball phenom struggling with alcoholism who is offered a coaching job at his alma mater. As the team begins to win, he looks to get his last shot at redemption. No Rotten Tomatoes score yet, which is not a good sign. Estimates are between $7M-$10M for the weekend at 2,718 theaters. First shows are Friday morning; no previews. The Way Back is the last in a string of dramas by Warner Bros, going back to September’s Goldfinch (most of which failed), before it returns with a more event- and genre-driven slate, starting with the animated Scoob! on May 15 followed by anticipated juggernaut Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5.
Expanding wide is Focus Features’ revisioned Jane Austen feature Emma, starring Glass actress Anya-Taylor Joy. Pic will explode from 97 theaters to around 1,500 venues in its third weekend with an industry projected take of $3M-$5M. To date, Emma, off an 85% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score has minted $1.57M through 11 days.
Deadline’s Dino Ramos will have more later in the week on this weekend’s specialty offerings that include AppleTV+ The Banker out in 60 theaters via Bleecker Street, Sony Pictures Classics’ The Burnt Orange Heresy, and A24’s drama First Cow from filmmaker Kelly Reichardt among several others.
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