Onward Box Office: Definitely Not One Of Pixar's Best Opening Weekends

Onward Ian and Laurel with a dragon

In the last 25 years, few studios have been as reliable at the box office as Pixar. The vast majority of the movies their filmmakers have made end up making north of $50 million in their first three days in theaters, and they hold multiple records – such as being the only company in the industry to ever release four animated features that made more than $100 million in their opening weekends. Unfortunately, it's because of this context that Dan Scanlon's Onward is likely going to be seen as disappointment in the long run. While the new fantasy adventure managed to grab the number one spot on the Top 10 chart, it did so while having the third weakest Pixar opening ever.

Check out Onward's numbers, as well as those for the other 10 Top releases, in the chart below, and join me after for analysis!

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Movie TitleWeekend AmountTotal AmountChart Position Last WeekNumber of Screens
The Invisible Man151500005269357013610
The Way Back*8500000850000002718
Sonic The Hedgehog799984814081800023717
The Call Of The Wild70000005748373833914
Bad Boys For Life305000020202810352159
Birds Of Prey21600008256058262173
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising15200001268570041195

Basically matching estimates reported at the start of last week, Onward managed to make $40 million this weekend, and when you stack that number up against the major hits of Pixar's past it doesn't look awesome. The only two movies in the studios history that made less than that total during their domestic openings are John Lasseter's Toy Story (which made $29.1 million in November 1995) and Peter Sohn's The Good Dinosaur (which made $39.2 million in November 2015). On the bright side, those movies went on to make $364.5 million and $333.8 million, respectively, worldwide, so the chances of the new release still managing to make a profit are still reasonable.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room that requires attention, as it both likely affected these opening weekend numbers, and will continue to impact Onward's performance going forward. COVID-19, a.k.a. the Coronavirus, has been at the center of conversation worldwide in the last week as the virus has continued to spread globally, and while the threat has been looming for weeks now, the situation is definitely intensifying. There have been multiple reports about major events being shut down because of public health concerns, including the SXSW Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas, and when that's happening it's not hard to imagine many people thinking twice about going to a crowded theater to watch a movie.

It's not easy to specifically calculate the total impact of this on Onward's box office, but one definitely can't count it out as a factor.

It probably also failed to help the box office performance that Onward didn't get the super warm reception that the majority of Pixar releases get. You can look at its 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and be impressed, but, again, context hurts it. The film is actually one of only seven titles from the studio's 20 title catalog not to get higher than a 90 percent from the review aggregator. At the same time, it should be noted that audiences are appreciating it, as CinemaScore surveys from opening weekend audiences resulted in an "A-" grade.

This is obviously a film that we'll be following pretty closely in the coming weeks. While Onward's specific budget has not been reported, usually modern Pixar films are made for between $175 million and $200 million, and thus far its worldwide total stands at just $68 million. Much like the adventure faced by Ian and Barley in the movie, there is a rough road ahead, but Pixar releases have pulled off miracles in the past.

Ian and Barley cast a spell in Onward

While the numbers aren't all that great, there was very little chance that Onward wasn't going to be called the "biggest movie in America" by the end of this weekend... but still there was some hope that Gavin O'Connor's The Way Back starring Ben Affleck would make a bigger splash than it did. The sports drama has earned a fair amount of critical acclaim (higher than Onward, actually, with an 87 percent Rotten Tomatoes score), but there apparently wasn't enough public interest to get people to swarm theaters buying tickets. At the very least it can be said that it did better than O'Conner's last feature about athletics, as the MMA-centric Warrior only made $5.2 million during its first three days of release back in September 2011; but it made less than half of what O'Connor's Miracle made in February 2004.as the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team grossed $19.4 million in its opening.

The only other "new" wide release from this past Friday is Autumn de Wilde's Emma, which expanded nationwide following a couple of weeks in limited markets. There was surely some hope that the movie would be able to ride on the wave started by Greta Gerwig's Little Women, with audiences demonstrating a certain hunger for female-centric period pieces based on classic literature, and while the release isn't exactly a blockbuster, its performance can be called respectable given the scale of the project.

As for all of the also-rans, we'll give some special attention to Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man, which actually had a very strong second weekend following a great opening. Likely thanks to positive word of mouth, its week-to-week drop-off turned out to be only 46 percent as it sprinted past $50 million domestically. To date the film has made an impressive $98.3 million globally, and it will soon become the 18th Blumhouse feature to make nine figures around the globe. How high it will ultimately climb is unknown at this point, but the studio's current record holders include M. Night Shyamalan's Split ($279 million), David Gordon Green's Halloween ($255.5 million), and Jordan Peele's Get Out ($255.4 million).

On the milestone beat, we once again find ourselves highlighting Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah's Bad Boys For Life, which regular readers may remember just crossed $400 million globally last Sunday. This time around, though, we are back to celebrating how much the film has made in North America, as that particular figure has now gone over $200 million.

Also, while they didn't quite reach milestone status, we have two titles that each came up about $5 million short, so we're going to highlight them anyway! Still definitely hanging around in the Top 10, Cathy Yan's Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) is getting close to hitting $200 million internationally, while Jeff Fowler's Sonic The Hedgehog is close to crossing $300 million.

There's a lot of interesting stuff competing for attention in theaters right now, and coming this week we have two more titles joining the fray, including Craig Zobel's horror comedy The Hunt, and Dave Wilson's Bloodshot. Be sure to come back next Sunday to see how everything shakes out!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.