Beauty and the Beast Sets Box Office On Fire
By John Hamann
March 19, 2017
Spring break is impossible to nail down, with some students off this week, some next. Some have already finished, and some wait for April. We can't say that Friday was open season for kids on Beauty and the Beast, but we know some were out of school. If we continue with our Batman v Superman comparison, the DC Comics release opened over Easter weekend, so we know that Good Friday influenced its weekend. That huge turnout showed up on Thursday night, all day Friday, and then would have swooned somewhat on Easter Sunday. Beauty's Saturday came in at $62.7 million, off 2% from its massive $63.8 million opening day, but way up from the $50.8 million – the Friday with the Thursday previews removed . This is an excellent score, which shows that the weekend is behaving a like a traditional family film weekend, with a strong internal multiplier. The Sunday came in at $43.5 million, challenging its opening day Friday (with the previews removed).
That means that Disney's Beauty and the Beast becomes the top March opener ever, earning $170 million, and if the estimate holds, it becomes the seventh biggest opener ever and kicks Batman v Superman to the curb at what is really the very first opportunity to do so. This princess has been crowned queen, as what once looked to be an expensive and risky $160 million release from the Mouse House now looks like it could possibly recoup its budget stateside. That is rare for $150 million plus films, as I look for earnings at three times the budget to account for distribution and the large marketing costs associated with a blockbuster like this. Avengers: Age of Ultron looks like it did well domestically, except it cost $250 million to make, and earned $459 million stateside, which means it had to wait for overseas grosses for profitability (which it got in spades, earning $1.4 billion globally). A big surprise for me is that Beauty becomes Emma Watson's biggest opener of her career, ahead of all of her Harry Potter films. Emma Watson is 27-years-old, and when looking at films she was a major star in, that opened on more than 1,000 screens, she is averaging about $100 million per opening.
Outside of summer and Star Wars, we have the biggest opener of all-time. How the heck did Disney manage to break this out so well? Beauty and the Beast earned a positive score at RottenTomatoes – 71% at the time of this writing - but compared to the other blockbusters this month, that's not a great score. Get Out came in at 99% (my hate for Armond White only grows), Logan earned a 92% (another Armond White negative review), and Kong: Skull Island, which came in at 78% fresh, is still better than Beauty and the Beast. I think Disney has proved that these films are pretty much review proof – the audience has either aged with the original animated classic, or has passed on those feelings to their own kids. The nostalgia factor runs deep here, as not only do we have a remake of a classic, they kept the musical element and updated some of the characters for 2017. The Cinemascore delivered what Disney really wanted – an A – which will bring with it Jungle Book type legs. That most recent live-action adaptation earned a 3.5 opening-to-total multiplier, which would put Beauty up with some of the biggest films ever released. Beauty and the Beast was also massive overseas, picking up $180 million, for a global debut of $350 million. Disney could not have asked for a better result.
Finishing almost $140 million back in second is Kong: Skull Island. After opening to a higher than expected $61 million last weekend, there would be no miracles this weekend given the weight of Beauty and the Beast. Remember that even if a competing film stays away from the demographic, theater owners will still adjust what film is playing on what screen in the hopes of maximizing profit. On Friday, the writing was on the wall, as Kong earned $7.3 million on its second Friday, off 64% from its first, even though its Thursday was not Kong-sized ($4 million). Like last weekend, a strong Saturday/Sunday lifted it back up a little, with the final estimate coming in at $28.9 million. That gives the $185 million Warner Bros. Release a decline from opening weekend of 53%, about where it was expected to land. It has a running domestic total of $110.1 million. WB will likely be looking at a domestic tally at less than $200 million, which will mean another $300 million plus will be needed overseas. The overseas total stands at $149 million, so Kong: Skull Island has a long way to go to find success.