Disney's Beauty and the Beast looks destined to reign atop the domestic box office for the third weekend in a row, but a bossy animated baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin, is looking to make his mark, while Scarlett Johansson will attempt to add another successful action heroine to her résumé.
Given the staying power it demonstrated last weekend when it dropped by just 48.3 percent and took in an additional $90.4 million, the Bill Condon-directed Beast will be hard to beat. If it sees a 50 percent box-office fall, it will still take in more than $40 million.
But Fox, which is releasing DreamWorks Animation's The Boss Baby, is aiming to secure the second spot by collecting about $30 million as it debuts the PG-rated movie in 3,733 locations. Based on the award-winning 2010 kids' book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, the film follows a suit-and-tie-outfitted toddler who's got a secret assignment to ensure that babies remain more lovable than puppies and talks with all the authority Baldwin brings to a role. The voice cast also includes Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow as the baby's parents, Miles Christopher Bakshi as his older brother and Tobey Maguire as the pic's narrator.
Tom McGrath, who has co-directed DWA's Madagascar movies, is the sole helmer on the CG-animated feature, which was written by Michael McCullers, who also provided material for DWA's Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and produced by Ramsey Ann Naito.
The futuristic Ghost in the Shell, starring Johansson as a cyber-enhanced soldier heading a counter-terrorism unit as she tries to uncover her past, also hopes to secure a foothold with an opening in the mid-$20-million range as it bows in 3,440 locations, including 3D and Imax theaters. Based on the Japanese manga The Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune, the pic could be dogged by the charge of whitewashing that was raised when Johansson was first cast in the lead role two years ago, although other movies like Marvel's Doctor Strange have withstood similar criticism. The Ghost cast also includes "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.
With a screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, the film was produced by Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Steven Paul and Michael Costigan.
Produced by Paramount, DreamWorks and Reliance Entertainment, the PG-13-rated Ghost, full of eye-catching visual effects and produced on a $110 million budget, was directed by Rupert Sanders, who helmed 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman. The movie also is opening this weekend in more than 50 international markets, representing 78 percent of its ultimate footprint, and then will go on to debut in China on April 7.
Among the weekend's more limited openings, Focus will introduce the World War II drama The Zookeeper's Wife, starring Jessica Chastain in the stirring story of how the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo tried to save both humans and animals during the German invasion. Directed by Niki Caro, the film will bow in 474 theaters.