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Pixar's Onward isn't feeling a ton of coronavirus woes with a semi-magical domestic box-office debut of $40 million. While this is slightly lower than early projections of $50 million, it's not a terrible opening for an animated Disney movie, especially one opening amid a global health scare.
Nevertheless, Onward is still performing on the lower end of the Pixar box-office spectrum. The last of the studio's projects to take in around $40 million during its opening weekend was 2015's mostly forgettable The Good Dinosaur. It's also nowhere near the $120 million weekend opening of Toy Story 4 last summer, but the Toy Story franchise has always been the studio's golden goose. While Pixar usually rolls out its films in the summer or adjacent to the Thanksgiving break, Onward is the first of the company's movies to hit theaters in March.
Unfortunately, Onward will most likely take a hit in foreign territories like Italy and China, where the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the shuttering of public spaces like movie theaters.
Directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University), the animated flick follows the epic quest of two elven brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) in a modern fantasy universe (think David Ayer's Bright).
Magic has been mostly forgotten in this reality, but upon discovering a wizard's staff on his 16th birthday, Ian Lightfoot (Holland) becomes determined to bring his late father back for just one day. Comedically, the spell only restores half of Mr. Lightfoot's body, resulting in Weekend at Bernie's-type hijinks. With the guidance of his gung-ho older brother, Barley (Pratt), Ian builds confidence in himself and finds emotional closure over the fact that he never knew his dad.
It sounds like an A++ setup for a Pixar joint, but critics weren't entirely charmed by Onward's more half-baked narrative elements. Even so, it's a very personal project for Scanlon, who lost his own father when he was very, very young.
“That just felt like a story that was a big part of my life that I wanted to dive into,” the director said last summer. "[The movie is for] people when they think about their family history, or mysteries that they may have in their life."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) co-stars as the boys' mother, Laurel Lightfoot, while Octavia Spencer (Ma) voices the Manticore, a once-great adventurer who helps the siblings on their quest. This is Louis-Dreyfus's second collaboration with Pixar after voicing Princess Atta in 1998's A Bug's Life.
Jason Headley and Keith Bunin co-wrote the movie's script with Scanlon.
Now in its second weekend, Leigh Whannell's Invisible Man reimagining inconspicuously slid into second place with an added $14 million from North American ticket sales. That's almost a 50 percent decrease from last weekend, when it debuted to $29 million domestically.
Even so, the modern update on a classic Universal IP cost a meager $7 million to make, so it's doing just fine when it comes to breaking even on its budget. To date, The Invisible Man (a horror allegory for the #MeToo era) has made $52 million in North America and over $60 million globally.
Slowing down somewhat, Jeff Fowler's Sonic the Hedgehog movie nabbed fourth place with $8 million from 3,717 venues. The video game-inspired release now has $141 million to its domestic name. Internationally, it's closing in on the $300 million mark.
Now in its fifth weekend, Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey is still struggling to get off the ground, landing in eighth place with $2.2 million. At home, the latest entry in the DCEU has pecked at $82 million. In terms of global sales, the comic book film hasn't even cracked $200 million yet.