Disney’s live-action musical “Beauty and the Beast” has opened with a magical $16.3 million at Thursday night preview screenings in North America.
The preview gross was the biggest of the year and the biggest ever for a Disney live-action title, finishing above the preview numbers for “Iron Man 3” and “Furious 7.” Premium formats, including 3D and Imax, generated 41% of the preview take.
“Beauty and the Beast” is expected to open to more than $120 million domestically this weekend at 4,210 locations. The film — the only new film opening wide — should add between $80 million and $110 million in international box office as Disney is launching in about 70% of markets.
Disney reported that “Beauty” took in $11.5 million internationally on Thursday, led by $1.8 million in Brazil, $1.2 million in South Korea, $1.1 million in Germany and $1 million in Italy.
Opening day box office numbers from China showed “Beauty and the Beast” taking in a solid $14.5 million on Friday, including previews.
The most optimistic forecasts have “Beauty” finishing with the best March opening ever for the domestic box office, eclipsing last year’s $166 million launch for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and 2012’s opening of “The Hunger Games” at $152.5 million.
Disney spent $160 million making the movie, directed by Bill Condon. The cast includes Emma Watson as Belle and “Downton Abbey” alum Dan Stevens as her cursed love interest. The supporting players include Luke Evans as the villainous Gaston, Josh Gad as his sidekick LeFou, and Ewan McGregor as the talking candelabra Lumiere.
Sales are being driven by nostalgia for the original Disney animated classic, released in 1991, and the recent popularity of live-action fairy tales is translating into massive box office. Disney has scored with “Cinderella” ($543.5 million worldwide), “Maleficent” ($758.5 million worldwide), and “The Jungle Book” ($966.6 million worldwide).
Reviews have been mostly positive with a current 68% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Beauty and the Beast” will be by far the biggest domestic launch of 2017, easily outpacing the $88 million opening for “Logan” two weeks ago. “Logan” posted the best Thursday night number of $9.5 million
“Beauty and the Beast,” Disney’s first major release of 2017, is coming into the market with the overall domestic box office gaining steam after lagging behind the 2016 pace by as much as 6% last month. The year-to-date total as of March 14 was $2.215 billion, or 0.5% behind
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said, “The need for escapism at the movies has enabled several recent films to outperform even the most generous first weekend projections with this ‘Beauty’ likely to benefit from the same momentum that fueled bigger than expected performances for recent movies as diverse as ‘Split,’ ‘Get Out,’ ‘Logan’ and ‘Kong: Skull Island.'”
“The film has everything going for it including a terrific cast led by Emma Watson, an irresistible mix of classic and new songs, an audience-friendly PG-rating, a terrific marketing campaign and an advantageous release date that puts it right in the corridor between the spring and summer movie seasons,” he added. “Disney has done a magnificent job of updating, re-tooling and re-inventing films from their classic animated film vault and have consistently created moviegoing experiences that pay proper respect and homage to the originals while creating instant modern classics out of these newly minted live-action cinematic creations.”
The second weekend of Warner Bros.-Legendary Entertainment’s “Kong: Skull Island” should lead the rest of the pack with about $25 million, followed by the third weekend of Fox’s “Logan” in the $18 million range.
Blumhouse’s BH Tilt label launched Orion Pictures’ “The Belko Experiment” with $305,000 in Thursday night previews. The horror thriller, which centers on Americans trapped in a high-rise building in Bogota, Colombia, expands to 1,341 North American sites Friday and is expected to take in $4 million this weekend.