Box Office: Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Launches With $1.8 Million on Thursday

Scarlett Johansson’s “Ghost in the Shell” has opened with a solid $1.8 million in Thursday night preview showings at 2,229 North America locations, while Alec Baldwin’s animated comedy “The Boss Baby” launched with $1.5 million at about 2,700 sites.

Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell” and Fox-DreamWorks’ “Baby” are expected to battle for second place this weekend with as much as $30 million each as Disney’s smash “Beauty and the Beast” waltzes to its third consecutive box office crown. “Beauty,” which took in an astounding $348 million domestically in its first 14 days, could bring in as much as $50 million at 4,210 sites during the Friday-Sunday period.

The Thursday preview numbers for “Ghost in the Shell” are equivalent to Paramount’s “10 Cloverfield Lane,” which went on to take in $24.7 million in its opening weekend on March 11-13, 2016. The movie is an adaptation of a popular Japanese Manga, but may see its results dampened by controversy over the filmmakers’ decision to cast Johansson in the lead role of The Major rather than an Asian actress.

“Ghost in the Shell” expands Friday to 3,440 locations. The film, which has a $110 million production budget, follows a cyber-enhanced soldier and her team taking on terrorist hackers. Paramount produced the picture in conjunction with DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment.

The Boss Baby” is launching at 3,773 North American venues with Baldwin voicing the lead role as a talking baby in a business suit who is actually a secret agent. DreamWorks Animation produced the CG-animated movie, which is being distributed by Fox.

“Baby,” based on the 2010 children’s book by Marla Frazee, is directed by Tom McGrath. The voice cast includes Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Miles Christopher Bakshi and Tobey Maguire.

Lionsgate’s second weekend of “Power Rangers” should lead the rest of pack in fourth place at 3,693 locations with $15 million to $20 million.

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