Saban's Power Rangers is morphin' into a bigger-than-expected player at the North American box office, where it earned an estimated $15 million Friday from 3,693 theaters for a projected $40 million-plus weekend despite fierce competition from holdover Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty remains a monster in its second weekend. The film adaptation of the 1991 classic animated film raked in $23.6 million Friday from 4,210 locations for an $89 million-plus weekend - the fourth-biggest second weekend of all time. Beauty raced past the $250 million mark in North America on Friday, and $541 million globally.
From Saban and Lionsgate, Power Rangers cost $100 million to make so it will need to do strong business both domestically and overseas. The good news - it nabbed an A CinemaScore and is attracting Millennials who grew up watching the TV series. The filmmakers wanted the new movie to be more edgy, so intentionally sought a PG-13 rating. Power Rangers also breaks ground by featuring the first queer big-screen superhero in a studio film.
Power Rangers is directed by Dean Israelite and follows five teens (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G) in a small town who discover artifacts that allow them to morph into crime-fighting heroes called The Power Rangers. They are tasked with learning to use their new skills in order to save their town from destruction by a power-hungry villain (Elizabeth Banks). Bryan Cranston also stars.
The news isn't good for the weekend's two other new films, Sony/Skydance's space horror-thriller Life and Warner Bros.' CHIPS.
Life, starring Jack Gyllenhaal, grossed an estimated $4.4 million Friday from 3,146 theater for a muted $12 million-$13 million weekend. The movie, also starring Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson, is holding at No. 4 behind Beauty, Power Rangers and holdover Kong: Skull Island.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa and premiering at the SXSW Film Festival, Life follows a group of scientists on the International Space Station that discover a rapidly evolving life form that threatens the crew and all life on Earth. Skydance, which financed a majority of the $58 million budget, and Sony are hoping solid reviews result in a long run, but audiences gave Life a dismal C+ CinemaScore.
Power Rangers, or Beauty for that matter, aren't the films playing on nostalgia.
Warner Bros.' CHIPS, an R-rated take on the buddy-cop TV series about two California Highway Patrol officers that debuted in the late 1970s, is also opening nationwide this weekend but appears to be running off the road. It grossed $2.6 million Friday from 2,464 for a projected $7 million weekend.
Dax Shepard both directs and stars with Michael Pena in the R-rated action-comedy, which garnered a B+ CinemaScore. CHIPS, which cost $25 million to make, is pacing to gross $2.5 million on Friday, including $500,000 in previews.
Warners still has reason to celebrate this weekend. In China, Legendary and Warners' Skull Island opened to an impressive $22.6 million on Friday, one of the biggest starts of all time for a Hollywood title. The tentpole earned another $28.7 million on Saturday for a two-day total of $51.3 million.
March 24, 12:40 p.m. Updated with revised weekend projections.
March 25, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend projections.