Business as usual at North American box office amid virus

LOS ANGELES — North American audiences are not staying away from theatres amid virus concerns, according to the weekend’s box office numbers. Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” topped the charts as expected and the Ben Affleck basketball drama “The Way Back” also opened normally.

“Onward” earned $40 million from 4,310 North American locations, according to studio estimates on Sunday. It’s on the lower end of openings for the studio, more in line with “The Good Dinosaur’s” launch in 2015. “Onward” is an original story about two teenage elf brothers voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland who get a chance to spend one last day with their late father.

“I think it’s a solid start for an original animated film,” said Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of distribution. “We’re especially excited about the fact that we’ve seen such good word of mouth.”

The studio expects it to continue performing well with spring breaks starting for many students and families next week.

Internationally, “Onward” picked up $28 million. Disney noted that outside of Asia-Pacific regions, coronavirus concerns have not made a material impact on earnings.

The weekend overall is down some 50% from the same weekend last year, but that’s only because that’s when “Captain Marvel” opened to over $153 million, and not any indication of the market taking a hit, said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

The rest of the charts also looked normal, even with recent virus-related shake-ups in the entertainment industry, including the cancellation of the South by Southwest festival and the decision to push back the release of the new James Bond film “No Time to Die” from April to November.

Universal and Blumhouse’s “The Invisible Man” dropped to second place in week two with $15.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $52.7 million. Worldwide, it’s just shy of $100 million.

In third place, Warner Bros.’ “The Way Back” opened in line with projections with an estimated $8.5 million. The R-rated drama cost around $21 million to produce.

Affleck’s performance was well-received by critics, and the star has been unusually candid about his own real-life struggles with alcoholism in the press in the weeks leading up to release.

“It’s a very specific drama,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution. “Ben Affleck did a great job and the reviews back that up.”

Audiences, who skewed older (64% were over the age of 35), gave the film a B+ CinemaScore. Goldstein noted that the audience age broadened over the weekend.

He also hasn’t seen any significant impact of the virus on the North American box office yet.

“When you look at the box office this weekend with ‘Onward’ and ‘The Way Back,’ these are solid numbers when we’re all concerned ‘Will people hole up inside?’” Goldstein said. We’re not seeing evidence of that, but anything can happen.”

Industry analysts are keeping an eye on the numbers as the news continues to develop around the outbreak.

“Thus far, I’m not seeing any impact,” Dergarabedian said. “This weekend played out exactly as expected. You have families and children going to theatres to the tune of $40 million. People remain in the habit of going to the movies.”

In limited release, A24 debuted Kelly Reichardt’s acclaimed “First Cow” in four locations in New York and Los Angeles. It earned $96,059 and will be rolling out nationwide throughout the spring.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Onward,” $40 million ($28 million international).

2. “The Invisible Man,” $15.2 million ($17.3 million international).

3. “The Way Back,” $8.5 million ($640,000 international).

4. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” $8 million ($12 million international).

5. “The Call of the Wild,” $7 million ($4.8 million international).

6. “Emma,” $5 million ($1.5 million international).

7. “Bad Boys For Life,” $3.1 million ($2.8 million international).

8. “Birds of Prey,” $2.2 million ($1.9 million international).

9. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” $1.8 million.

10. “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising,” $1.5 million.

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:

1. “Onward,” $28 million.

2. “The Invisible Man,” $17.3 million.

3. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” $12 million.

4. “The Gentlemen,” $4.9 million.

5. “The Call of the Wild,” $4.8 million.

6. “The Kangaroo Chronicles,” $3.5 million.

7. “Parasite,” $3.3 million.

8. “Bad Boys for Life,” $2.8 million.

9. “Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island,” $2.4 million.

10. “Birds of Prey,” $1.9 million.

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