Moviegoers Set Aside Virus Concerns as ‘Onward’ Wins Box Office

North American moviegoers largely shoved aside concern about sitting in a dark room with strangers amid a coronavirus outbreak.

“Onward,”Walt Disney Co.’s animated feature from Pixar, opened in first place with weekend sales of $40 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, Comscore Inc. estimated Sunday — only a bit shy of the $42 million to $48 million analysts had projected. A new Ben Affleck movie from Warner Bros. beat projections.

For now, domestic theaters are faring better than their overseas counterparts in the era of the coronavirus. Theaters in China have been closed for weeks and other countries, including Japan, South Korea, Italy and France, are seeing steep declines in attendance. “Onward” had a tougher time overseas, taking in $28 million during the weekend.

“It’s not quite as strong as we hoped in some international territories, but this is an original property so there isn’t as much awareness and urgency leading into it,” said Cathleen Taff, who oversees worldwide film distribution for Disney. “That means word of mouth is going to be really important, and we have seen excellent responses from audiences so we’re confident that will be the case here and set us up for a good long run.”

For the weekend, Comscore says the receipts from top 10 movies fell by 53.5% from a year earlier, when “Captain Marvel” opened to a huge $153.4 million take in North America.

“Onward” is set in a suburban fantasy land, following the story of two elf teenagers who seek one last day with their late father. It’s one of Disney’s biggest releases of the year and Pixar’s first original story since 2017’s “Coco.” “Onward” features the voices of 40-year-old Chris Pratt and 23-year-old Tom Holland as the two elves. The film got an 87% favorable rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Affleck’s “The Way Back,” fromAT&T Inc.’s Warner division, brought in weekend sales of $8.5 million to land in third place. Analysts were predicting up to $8 million. Affleck stars as a former high-school basketball star who walked away from the game, but returns to coach his alma mater. It got an 86% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Read More: Movie Theaters Can’t Afford a Pandemic: Tara Lachapelle

The disease outbreak has taken a toll on the stocks of theater owners. AMC Entertainment Inc., Cineworld Group Plc and Cinemark Holdings Inc. together control nearly half of U.S. cinema screens and ticket sales, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. That’s in addition to theaters they operate in Europe and Latin America.

Last week, the James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” was pushed back until November in light of the global conditions.

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