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Box Office: ‘Boss Baby’ Could Fire ‘Beauty and the Beast’ From No. 1 Spot

“The Boss Baby” is giving box office titan “Beauty and the Beast” a run for its money in a surprisingly tight race this weekend.

Emma Watson’s “Beauty” looks to bring in about $45 million during its third weekend at the domestic box office. Early estimates showed Friday that the Fox-DreamWorks animated comedy “The Boss Baby” is over-performing with a range in the mid 40s at 3,773 locations — with the possibility of a higher number due to 20% of schoolchildren being on vacation Friday.

Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson, will wind up in line with expectations in the $23 million to $28 million range at 3,440 sites. That’s a disappointment for Paramount, given the fantasy-actioner’s $110 million budget.

Even if “Boss Baby” wins the weekend, “Beauty and the Beast” continues to amaze. Should the $45 million estimate hold, it will be the seventh-highest third weekend ever — trailing only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avatar,” “Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Jurassic World,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Spider-Man.” “Beauty and the Beast” became the 40th highest domestic grosser of all time on Thursday with $348 million in its first two weeks.

“The Boss Baby” stars Alec Baldwin voicing the lead role as a talking baby in a business suit who is actually a secret agent. Despite being aimed at younger moviegoers, it performed impressively in Thursday night previews with $1.5 million and could wind up its first day with as much as $14 million. DreamWorks Animation produced the CG title, which is being distributed by Fox as the final movie in its distribution deal. Future DreamWorks Animation titles will go out through Universal.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said that the marketplace appears to be big enough for two family films in “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Boss Baby.” “As the first animated family film since “The Lego Batman Movie,” the star studded animated PG-rated film is perfectly positioned to capitalize on a crowded and highly competitive pre-summer marketplace that has also proven a tough battleground for some films to successfully negotiate,” he added.

“The Boss 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.

“Ghost in the Shell” opened respectably with $1.8 million in Thursday night preview showings at 2,229 North American locations and was heading for an opening day in the $9 million range. 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” follows a cyber-enhanced soldier and her team taking on terrorist hackers. Paramount produced the picture in conjunction with DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance.

Lionsgate’s second weekend of “Power Rangers” should lead the rest of pack in fourth place at 3,693 locations with about $13 million to $15 million — a steep drop of about 65% from its $40 million opening weekend.

Dergarabedian noted that March is finishing on a particularly high note as it crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time last weekend, thanks to strong performances by “Beauty and the Beast,” “Logan,” “Kong: Skull Island” and holdover “Get Out.” March was up 21% over last year at $1.11 billion as of March 29.

“With year to date box office running currently 3.4% ahead of last year with $2.849 billion banked so far and the first $1 billion March, the industry should be poised for a turbo-charged April performance,” he added.

April’s launches include Universal’s “The Fate of the Furious” on April 14, two years after “Fast 7” grossed $1.5 billion worldwide.

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