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Weekend Box Office: Beauty performs like a beast

Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney

It’s a tale as old as a few years ago: Disney dusts off some animated classic from its vault, replaces the cartoons with real people (and some CGI critters), and opens it in a bunch of theaters. You can dispute the creative justifications (this writer certainly has), but if there were any lingering doubts that it’s a foolproof business model, they’ve been decisively put to rest.

The new-old, live-action Beauty And The Beast made $170 million this weekend in America, and a whopping $350 million on a global scale. What Gaston does to eggs, this movie did to box-office records: It’s now the biggest March opening of all time (edging out last year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice), the biggest spring opening of all time, the biggest debut of the year so far, and the best bow ever for a PG-rated movie. In the pantheon of opening weekends, it falls into an impressive seventh place, besting another Emma Watson vehicle (the final Harry Potter film) but falling just short of the out-the-gate tally earned by another Disney release (Marvel’s Iron Man 3). It’s the most expensive musical of all time, but if it can pass the studio’s own The Lion King, it will compensate by becoming the highest grossing one, too.

Beauty And The Beast conquered thanks, one might assume, to the Venn diagram of demographics it courts. This is a movie that targets kids and ’90s kids, Potter fans and musical-theater nerds, romantics and blockbuster enthusiasts. The nostalgia industrial complex certainly played a part, as we’re talking about a remake that preys on the recall center of moviegoer’s brains with every twinkly note of its score. But the film also owes much of its success to women: An enormous 72 percent of the opening-day audience was female, suggesting that teenage boys of all ages aren’t the only crowd to which Hollywood should be extensively catering. Beauty And The Beast’s success actually carries faint echoes of another big-budget love story, a 20-year-old smash that similarly captured the interest of multiple film-going groups. (Hint: It involved a Rose, too.)

That aforementioned Venn diagram probably doesn’t include the target audience of Beauty And The Beast’s only new wide-release competitor, the vicious office death-match thriller The Belko Experiment. The film’s $4 million intake is nearly enough to recoup its tiny budget, but not enough to put a dent in the earnings of March’s enduring champs. Kong: Skull Island ($28.8 million), Logan ($17.5 million), and Get Out ($13.2) carved out decent business in Disney’s shadow, making this month the most profitable one for movies since December of 2015, when The Force Awakens arrived. Guess what else is getting put to rest? The idea of a designated blockbuster season. For Hollywood, summer now lasts all year long.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

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