A bold new strategy for Disney has once again culminated with what might be its most prestigious modern property – although this time it's by design.
Weekend Forecast for March 17-19, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
March 17, 2017
Beauty and the Beast was probably the height, creatively, for modern traditional animation by Disney, scoring a Best Picture nomination, the first animated film to ever do so. While it wasn't the highest grosser of these films (The Lion King was the peak there), it's essentially the modern Snow White and the internal standard to which all Disney films are held. In this decade, Disney has now moved towards taking its beloved standards and making live action (well,”live action”) versions of them, including Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and now this remake of Beauty and the Beast.
Where in 1991, Disney was still in mostly “anonymous lead voice actor” mode with a couple of exceptions, this live action version goes full-on name recognition. Emma Watson stars as Belle, the great monument to Stockholm Syndrome and “I can *change* him!" thinking, taking her imprisoned father's (Kevin Kline) place at the castle of the cursed Beast (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey and Legion fame), who has a limited amount of time to make someone love him before he permanently changes. Within this castle are a host of normally inanimate objects brought to life with the voices of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and others, with Luke Evans playing the jealous and boastful Gaston and stage veteran Josh Gad as LeFou (with a notably controversial-but-it-shouldn't-be gay subplot, a first for Disney).
As with the original, the remake stays as a musical and, well, basically just about everything, being almost a shot for shot remake, just with people and CGI. It does have the benefit of looking gorgeous, if more than a bit redundant, but Disney have long been experts at repackaging material they've already sold to people in a slightly different way to make enormous amounts of money. Reviews have generally reflected the slight cynicism of this move. The critics are generally positive on the merits but note that there's not a lot new here. Still, live action seems to carry a bit of prestige compared to animation even in the world of Disney – or perhaps it's something more like legitimizing the reason for the remake? At any rate, it's been 26 years (yeesh) since the original and there's at least one and a half generations that this is novel to, and a couple more that would like to take those generations to that. That's probably the genius of Disney's move here.
The returns of the live action remakes have been strong if a little all over the place, with two breaking the $100 million mark for opening weekend and two others settling for the more modest $60 million zone. While it's mostly depended on the elaborateness of the effects so far, the renown of Beauty and the Beast may elevate this to that higher level. With the enormous level of hype surrounding this release and the massive 4,200+ venue count, it's easily headed to an over-$100 million opening weekend, with an aim towards $125 million.
The only other new wide release is the gore-filled The Belko Experiement, from horror studio Blumhouse. Taking some influence from Japan's famous Battle Royale, it takes place in a suburban office building that's sealed from the outside, with the ominous message that of the 80 people in the building, 30 must be killed within two hours or the decision will be made to kill 60 of them. It's the start of an ethical dilemma, and then the killings begin. Mostly an excuse to come up with inventive ways to kill people with office supplies, it's a metaphor for capitalism or something. Featuring a bunch of “that guy” actors, including John C. McGinley, Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr, Michael Rooker and Melonie Diaz, and with a release slate of around 1,500 venues, it's a minor player this weekend with around $4 million for its opening.
Kong: Skull Island surpassed a number of expectations with a $61 million start, breathing a little life into Warner Bros.' idea for an extended monster universe. This is going to be by far the high water mark for this film, as while it received slightly better than expected reviews, it's not the kind of film to generate word-of-mouth or legs, and should fall precipitously to about $26 million this weekend. Even great genre movies have trouble.
Speaking of which, Logan fell a massive 57 percent in its second weekend despite raves, so there you go. Now sitting at a little over $150 million domestic, it's in line for about $20 million in its third weekend, and should still close out Hugh Jackman's run as Wolverine as a heavily profitable one.
Get Out continued its leggy ways, with $20 million in its third weekend, off just 40 percent from its debut in two drops, which would have been solid for just one. I'd expect about $15 million here, though the slide off the cliff could start at any time.
Spiritual film The Shack held on for a $10 million second weekend, and should sit around $6 million this frame as it heads towards about $50 million domestic and the rest of us try to forget that Sam Worthington exists again.