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Box Office: ‘Jungle Book’ Roars to Robust $4.2 Million on Thursday Night

Disney’s “The Jungle Book” roared to a robust $4.2 million on Thursday night.

Warner Bros. scored $735,000 in Thursday night showings of the comedy sequel “Barber Shop: The Next Cut.”

The Jungle Book,” whose previews began at 7 p.m., is expected to dominate the U.S. box office this weekend, opening in the $70 million range at 4,028 venues. The live action and CG hybrid, directed by Jon Favreau, has been embraced by critics and carries a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Its $4.2 million preview number matched that of “Maleficent” and was ahead of “Cinderella,” “Oz” and “Zootopia.” Online ticketing service Fandango said Friday that “The Jungle Book” is outpacing “Cinderella,” “Maleficent” and “Oz: the Great and Powerful” in its advance ticket sales.

Disney is so confident about the impending success of the family film, which carries a $175 million budget, that it’s already started developing a sequel.

Should “The Jungle Book” hit $75 million, it would match Disney’s animated hit “Zootopia” for the third-best opening of the year after “Batman v Superman” at $166 million and “Deadpool” at $132.4 million. It would also become the fourth-best April launch, following last year’s “Fast 7” with $147.1 million, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with $95 million and “Fast Five” with $86.2 million.

“The Jungle Book” is the latest in Disney’s live-action reimagining of classic stories. “Cinderella” took in $67.9 million on its debut weekend last year en route to a $201.2 million domestic total and a $542.7 million global cume. “Maleficent” opened two years ago with $69.4 million on its way to a $241.4 million domestic total and $758.5 million worldwide.

The low end of estimates for “The Jungle Book” is around $65 million. The movie is based on the Rudyard Kipling story about Mowgli, an abandoned human boy who becomes friends with jungle animals after being raised by wolves.

Favreau’s film includes Bill Murray voicing Baloo the bear, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the panther, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the snake and Lupita Nyong’o as the mother wolf Raksha. Newcomer Neel Sethi stars as Mowgli.

The fourth weekend of “Batman v Superman” and Melissa McCarthy’s “The Boss” will battle for third place in the $11 million to $13 million range.

Warner Bros.’ superhero clash topped $300 million in the U.S. on Wednesday along with the $500 million mark internationally. It’s dropping more than 500 U.S. locations to about 3,500.

MGM-New Line’s comedy sequel “Barber Shop: The Next Cut” should also generate solid business in its opening weekend with at least $25 million at 2,661 sites. Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Jazsmin Lewis, Sean Patrick Thomas and Eve have been in all three films. Common, Regina Hall and Nicki Minaj are joining “The Next Cut.”

MGM oversaw production and Warner Bros. is handling distribution. Critics have shown strong support with a 91% Rotten Tomatoes score.

“Barber Shop” opened in 2002 with $20 million on its way to $75 million domestically, followed by 2004’s “Barber Shop 2: Back in Business” with a $24 million launch and a $65 million total.

Lionsgate’s debut of its thriller “Criminal” is projected to open moderately in the $7 million to $9 million range in 2,683 locations. Kevin Costner stars as a death row inmate who’s implanted with a dead CIA agent’s memories in order to finish an assignment. Critics have been unimpressed, contributing to the film’s 24% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

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