Box Office: 'Onward' Opens to Muted $40M, 'The Way Back' Stalls at $8.5M

Box office analysts say it's unclear how much of an impact worries over the coronavirus had on moviegoing over the weekend.

Family animated offering Onward opened to a muted $40 million from 4,310 theaters in North America, one of the lowest nationwide starts for the storied Pixar brand.

It's unclear how much of an effect worries over the coronavirus had on moviegoing in the U.S. over the weekend, or whether Onward faced its own challenges. Comparisons to last year — when Captain Marvel opened to $153 million — were always going to be brutal. Overall, revenue for the weekend was down more than 50 percent from the same frame in 2019.

The impact of COVID-19 is clearly being felt overseas, where cinemas are closed in China and box office revenue is compromised in markets including South Korea, Italy and Japan. Onward came in well behind projections with an underwhelming $28 million from its first 47 territories for a global bow of $68 million. The movie did not open in any of the countries most impacted by the coronoavirus.

While Onward received strong reviews and an 86 percent "fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes, it had only been tracking for a domestic launch in the $40 million-$45 million range even before the virus became a global concern.

The film, which earned an A- CinemaScore, follows two teenage elf brothers (voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) who embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there and if they can use it to bring back their late father. Dan Scanlon, who directed Monsters University, is behind the film and wrote the movie with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. 

Pixar's lowest nationwide openings include 1995's Toy Story, its first release, ($29.1 million); 2015's The Good Dinosaur ($39.2 million); and 1998's A Bug's Life, which first bowed in one or two theaters before breaking wide over Thanksgiving with a three-day gross of $33.3 million and roughly $40 million for the long holiday frame.

Universal and Blumhouse's The Invisible Man fell to No. 2 in its second weekend, declining a relatively narrow 46 percent to $15.2 million from 3,610 locations for a 10-day domestic tally of $52.9 million. Overseas, it grossed another $17.3 million from 65 markets for a foreign cume of $45.6 million and $98.3 million globally.

Warner Bros.' adult drama The Way Back, starring Ben Affleck, debuted to $8.5 million from 2,020 theaters. While that's a sobering start for a movie boasting A-list talent and billed as a comeback for Affleck, it could have been worse. Some tracking services had the film opening to as low as $6 million (the high end was $10 million). The Way Back is the latest in a string of midrange misses for Warner Bros. and cost a reported $21 million to produce before marketing.

In recent years, Affleck's box office track record has been decidedly mixed. In 2016, The Accountant debuted domestically to $24.7 million, while Live by Night, released that same year, opened to just $5.1 million after first playing in select theaters. In 2013, Runner Runner bowed to $7.7 million domestically.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor, The Way Back follows a former basketball star (Affleck) struggling with the loss of his wife and addiction as he attempts to make a comeback by becoming the coach of his alma mater's high school basketball team. The pic, which skewed notably older and male, received strong reviews and B+ CinemaScore from audiences.

Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog came in No. 4 in its third outing as it speeds toward the $300 million mark globally, grossing $8 million domestically from 3,717 cinemas for a domestic tally of $140.8 million. The film has now earned $154.8 million overseas for a worldwide cume of $295.6 million

20th Century/Disney's The Call of the Wild rounded out the top five with an estimated $7 million from 3,914 locations for a North American cume of $57.5 million and $99.6 million globally.

Elsewhere, Focus Features and Working Title's Emma expanded nationwide in its third weekend, grossing $5 million from 1,565 theaters for a domestic tally of $6.9 million. The period pic placed sixth in the U.S.

Sony celebrated Bad Boys for Life crossing the $200 million mark in the U.S. as the film earned another $3 million for a domestic haul of $202 million and $415 million globally.

At the specialty box office, A24's First Cow, from filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, posted an opening location average of $24,105 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the best average of the weekend.