‘Onward’ Spells $40 Million Opening Weekend


Pixar’s latest took in the lowest end of the estimated range for its opening weekend, while Ben Affleck’s drama might struggle to break even – we analyze all of these numbers.


It was a pretty disappointing weekend at the box office overall. Even though Pixar is not known for achieving huge opening weekends (The Incredibles 2 notwithstanding), they usually manage to earn a little more than $40 million. Maybe it was the release date, as they usually open movies in the summer (see Toy Story 4, The Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, etc.), but the fact is that for their usually enormous budgets, this must come as a disappointment, especially if we take into consideration their international numbers, which add up to only $28 million. I know, probably The Way Back could use this kind of numbers, but the fact is that we are talking about a Disney international release in Onward, with all of its implications, and with an all-star voice cast – not that that should matter at all when it comes to animated movies, but that’s a topic for another time.


Onward is an example of a film that had a $40-$60 million forecast for its opening weekend and finally ended up in the lowest end of that range. On the other hand, Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back had an opening weekend prediction of $5-$10 million, and actually managed to take in $8.5, which is not a huge win, but it’s not the biggest disappointment ever. To really have a grasp at what these numbers mean, we must always compare them to the production budgets of the movies. In this case, even though we don’t have a final number on the budget, estimates range it between $20-$25 million, so it is still early to call this a box office win or not. However, with this kind of budget, we are probably looking at a $50 million threshold for the film to break even, and I don’t know it can pull it off.


Another factor we must take into consideration is that the international number is still insignificant, as the movie has only opened in a couple of markets. Most of Europe has yet to see the film, and even though the spread of the coronavirus over there will definitely affect the box office performance, I do think it might help to push the movie a bit.


There are several examples we can compare this movie to in order to try to predict its final number. Box Office Pro was predicting around $25 million for its final domestic number (between $20-$40 million). One recent example of a Ben Affleck movie directed by Gavin O’Connor we can compare this movie to would be The Accountant (2016), which had a budget of $40 million – this carries a bigger marketing budget, so we should consider that. That film had an opening weekend of $24.7 million and ended up rallying $86.26 million domestic. That is, its opening weekend represents 28.6% of the total box office, but we must take into consideration that it opened in a month with way less competition. The international total for that movie was $68.9 million.


Another example we can take a look at is another sports movie in theaters around the same time last year, Fighting With My Family. This one had a production budget of around half of The Way Back‘s, $11 million. Its wide opening weekend came in around $7.8 million and its domestic total, around $23 million (opening weekend represents 34%), and this film faced even harder competition than The Way Back (a big animated release in How To Train Your Dragon 3, it opened before the latest Madea film, and two weeks before Captain Marvel).


Taking all the factors into consideration, I believe that considering that The Way Back‘s opening weekend will represent around 35% of its total box office domestic number, is within reason. This gives us around $23.34 million, which is around what Box Office Pro is predicting. Estimating the international number is a bit harder, but if we consider that for both of these movies, its total represented 44% of the worldwide final number, that means that the domestic number was around the 56% of the worldwide total, which would give us a total of around $41.68 million worldwide. Without having a definitive number on the production and marketing budgets, it is hard to imagine if it will break even or not, but I would actually tend to believe it will not, especially because I believe these percentages are pretty optimistic.


Finally, we can take a quick look at the rest of the chart. The Invisible Man came in at #2, and it is now well into profit, proving once again that a model of handing small budgets to very skilled directors can bring in tons of profit and actually a quality film. Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog closes in around the $300 million mark, with most of its box office run over by now, which would mean that the film has crossed its break-even point, and is taking in a couple of tens of millions in profit. On the other side, The Call of the Wild and Birds of Prey continue to disappoint at the box office, and both movies are definitely going to lose money. The former will eventually take back its production budget, but will not come close to break even, while the latter might actually not lose more than $20-$30 million. Finally, Bad Boys For Life must have been the reason for many parties over at Sony, as the film might take around $100 million in profit for the studio.


Here’s the top five of the weekend:

  • Onward – $39.119 million (NEW)
  • The Invisible Man – $15.13 million (-46.3%)
  • The Way Back – $8.17 million (NEW)
  • Sonic The Hedgehog – $7.7 million (-51%)
  • The Call of the Wild – $6.762 million (-47.6%)