Is Onward’s Muted Box Office Opening A Sign Of U.S. COVID-19 Concerns?

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has certainly had an impact on industries across the board. It’s led to the cancelation of many different staple events in film and geek culture, and has also left a mark on the world’s box office. However, the United States box office has largely been unaffected…that is until recently. With the recent numbers from Pixar’s Onward this past weekend, it’s hard not to wonder whether or not the disease’s effect is finally being felt.

According to THR, Onward game out on top this weekend, but its success was fairly muted. It took in $40 million this past three-day weekend, marking one of the lowest performances in an opening from Pixar to date. Behind it are A Bug’s Life, the first two Toy Story movies, and The Good Dinosaur. That’s right. The only films to do worse than it were three movies from the ‘90s and one of Pixar’s few financial failures.

This comes in spite of a fantastic 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with plenty of rave reviews to go around. From what we can tell, its performance had little to do with the actual quality of the movie. It even earned an A- CinemaScore among viewers, marking pretty solid enthusiasm for it on the whole. 

RELATED – Onward Review: The Fantastic(al) D&D Movie People Have Always Wanted

Furthermore, revenue was down 50 percent from last year in the same weekend. Then again, last year also did see Captain Marvel hit theaters, and we know that thing exploded onto the scene in unexpected fashion. With that in mind, it really is difficult to gauge whether or not COVID-19 was truly responsible for the lackluster weekend.

It is worth nothing that even before the coronavirus concerns, Onward was tracking for $40 million to $45 million in its opening weekend. As such, it could be argued that enthusiasm was already middling for the original Pixar brand. That being said, as someone who has been following early projections for films for quite some time, it almost always starts off low before inching upward based on increasing enthusiasm. By all accounts, Onward was a movie that should have benefited by this.

The weeks to come will really start to show how much disease paranoia is contributing to the underperformance of these titles. In addition to Onward, the sports drama The Way Back starring Ben Affleck underperformed with an $8.5 million start. While this can be chalked up to mid-budget movies simply no longer having a place on the big screen, it can also be a victim of coronavirus panic. 

Again, it’s too early to tell whether or not any of this is the case, but if this trend continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some other big titles get pushed to later in the year. 

What do you think of this past weekend at the box office? Is COVID-19 truly responsible for the drop? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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