Weekend Forecast: Could ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Enchant a New March Record?

2017 has already been off to a generally strong start — especially the past few weekends — but it’s finally time for Disney to make its first appearance at this year’s box office ball with Beauty and the Beast.

The long-awaited live-action take on the 1991 animated classic has been generating immense levels of buzz for months. Pre-sale and social media comparisons to past hits like CinderellaMaleficentThe Jungle Book, and Alice In Wonderland have fallen by the wayside in favor of blockbuster franchises the likes of Marvel, DC, Hunger Games, and others.

From record trailer views to stellar pre-sales, there’s little questioning Disney’s latest remake as one of the most hotly anticipated films in recent years. In particular, women of all ages are the target audience here, and this is arguably the most zeitgeist-y release to hit cinemas for them since the days of The Hunger Games and Twilight.

If there’s any single “downside” it will be the film’s comparatively muted appeal to young male viewers. That being said, tracking metrics from the same point before release indicate interest from men under the age of 25 is about 7 percent stronger than seen by The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which opened to $141.1 million in November 2012. Shifting to adult men (25+), interest in Beauty is 17 percent higher. Among women, those age-based metrics favor the Disney phenom by 15 and 14 percent, respectively.

Factoring in the rise of ticket prices over the past four years, as well as the concurrent premium screen and IMAX boom that will surely be attractive venues for fans this weekend, it seems reasonable to say Beauty has significant potential to beat current industry expectations of a debut between $120-150 million. For its part, Disney is currently expecting around $120 million — plenty to still qualify it as a major success. (By comparison, that would be in line with the $126 million inflation-adjusted debut of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.)

Other comparisons suggest the Beast is closely tracking with Finding Dory, which debuted to $135.1 million last summer. Ultimately, though, there are dozens of scenarios in which the numbers can be moved around with a film like this, which means the range of potential is quite wide and less predictable due to the film’s nature as a standalone, non-franchise entity.

Still, there’s something intangible when it comes to accounting for momentum. Disney is on fire these days, Emma Watson brings with her a legion of Harry Potter fans, mainstream musicals are fresh and lucrative right now (thank you, in part, La La Land and Frozen), a huge ensemble cast of beloved veteran actors adds to the timelessness of the story, and the film itself boasts multi-generational appeal.

Keeping things in perspective, there are likewise reasonable arguments as to why an opening in the $120-150 million range is very possible. Much like other Disney films in recent years, though, we’re banking on the prospect for Beauty and the Beast to exceed already-huge expectations and give last year’s Batman v Superman ($166.1 million) a challenge for the all-time March opening weekend record. It may even take a shot at the top five debuts of all-time — needing to surpass Captain America: Civil War‘s $179.14 million to achieve that.

Also opening this weekend will be The Belko Experiment, which BH Tilt is releasing in an estimated 1,250 to 1,300 locations. The distributor reports these theaters were selected based on their historically healthy performances for similar genre titles, much like the same strategy this studio employed for Incarnate back in December. Although some potential for counter-programming exists, the target male audience will likely opt for Kong: Skull Island or Logan.

In terms of overall market share, Beauty will be key to determining whether this weekend could set a new March record. The top 12 films over the March 25-27, 2016 frame earned $245.3 million when BvS opened last year, enough to qualify as the tenth biggest market weekend in history (and the largest outside of summer or the holidays). Our current projections indicate that may be another achievement up for grabs this weekend.

Check out our weekend forecast in the table below.

Title Distributor Weekend Domestic Total through Sunday, March 19 % Change
Beauty and the Beast Disney $175,000,000 $175,000,000 NEW
Kong: Skull Island Warner Bros. $27,460,000 $110,030,000 -55.00%
Logan Fox $19,060,000 $186,510,000 -49.99%
Get Out Universal $14,520,000 $134,670,000 -30.00%
The Shack Lionsgate/Summit $6,500,000 $42,720,000 -35.05%
The LEGO Batman Movie Warner Bros. $5,330,000 $167,790,000 -30.00%
The Belko Experiment BH Tilt $3,250,000 $3,250,000 NEW
Hidden Figures Fox $1,930,000 $165,940,000 -30.10%
Before I Fall Open Road Films $1,800,000 $12,010,000 -40.02%
John Wick: Chapter Two Lionsgate/Summit $1,600,000 $90,170,000 -40.12%

Shawn Robbins and Alex Edghill contributed to this forecast.

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