Ben Affleck’s ‘The Way Back’ opens in 3rd place despite actor’s wildly telling press tour

Disney and Pixar's animated film "Onward" opened at the top of the weekend box office while Ben Affleck's "The Way Back" opened below expectations.

"Onward" topped the charts as expected despite concerns that audiences in North America would stay away from movie theaters amid virus concerns. However, that doesn't appear to have been the case, meaning Affleck's wildly candid press tour for the film about an alcoholic basketball coach simply underperformed.

Warner Bros.' “The Way Back” opened in third place, which was somewhat in line with projections, with an estimated $8.5 million. However, 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. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have put people in theater seats.

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

Ben Affleck attends "The Way Back" Atlanta Q&A screening at Plaza Theatre on February 19, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)

Ben Affleck attends "The Way Back" Atlanta Q&A screening at Plaza Theatre on February 19, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)

Audiences, who skewed older (64 percent 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,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told The Associated Press. “This weekend played out exactly as expected. You have families and children going to theaters to the tune of $40 million. People remain in the habit of going to the movies.”

“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, and more in line with “The Good Dinosaur's” premiere in 2015.

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“Onward” is an original story about two teenage elf brothers, voiced by stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, who get a chance to spend one last day with their late father.

In this image released by Disney/Pixar, characters Laurel, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, from left, Ian, voiced by Tom Holland, and Barley, voiced by Chris Pratt, appear in a scene from "Onward." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

In this image released by Disney/Pixar, characters Laurel, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, from left, Ian, voiced by Tom Holland, and Barley, voiced by Chris Pratt, appear in a scene from "Onward." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

“I think it’s a solid start for an original animated film,” Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of distribution, told The Associated Press. “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 break 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.

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The weekend overall is down some 50 percent 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, Dergarabedian said.

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.

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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.

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Below are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, 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.

2. “The Invisible Man,” $15.2 million.

3. “The Way Back,” $8.5 million.

4. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” $8 million.

5. “The Call of the Wild,” $7 million.

6. “Emma,” $5 million.

7. “Bad Boys For Life,” $3.1 million.

8. “Birds of Prey,” $2.2 million.

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

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.