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‘Jungle Book’ to Rule Box Office Kingdom With $70 Million Opening

Disney’s “The Jungle Book” will dominate the U.S. box office this weekend, opening in the $70 million range while “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” continues its fast fade at multiplexes.

The live-action-CG hybrid, directed by Jon Favreau, is launching at 4,028 domestic venues with critics having embraced the movie with some of the best reviews of the year for a studio production. It currently has a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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. The studio is in talks with Favreau, screenwriter Justin Marks and producer Brigham Taylor to return.

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.

“The Jungle Book” is the latest in Disney’s live-action reimagining of classic stories, following “Alice in Wonderland,” “Maleficent,” “Oz” and “Cinderella” — which took in $67.9 million in its opening weekend last year on its way 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 Jungle Book” will open at more than 3,100 locations which offer 3D, including 376 Imax sites. Previews begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

The low end of estimates is around $65 million. With 63% of international territories opening, the international take should be near $75 million.

“The Jungle Book” grossed $28.9 million during the past weekend in a number of Asian and Latin American territories, including $7.6 million from India — the second highest industry opening for an American release. Besides the U.S. launch on Friday, “The Jungle Book” will also debut this weekend in China, Brazil, France and Mexico.

The movie is based on the Rudyard Kipling stories about Mowgli, an abandoned human boy who becomes friends with jungle animals after being raised by wolves. Disney released an animated version in 1967.

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 third weekend of “Batman v Superman” was edged last weekend by about $240,000 by Universal’s launch of Melissa McCarthy’s “The Boss” at $23.6 million. Both titles have received poor reviews and should decline by at least 50% this weekend.

Warner Bros.’ superhero mash-up topped the $298 million domestic mark on Monday, its 18th day, and should cross the $300 million milestone on Wednesday.

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 about 2,600 sites. Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Jazsmin Lewis, Sean Patrick Thomas and Eve have been in all three films with Common, Regina Hall and Nicki Minaj joining “The Next Cut.”

MGM oversaw production and Warner Bros. is handling distribution. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said “The Jungle Book” and “Barbershop” have been scheduled smartly.

“A great weekend is on tap with what looks to be solid performances by two perfectly counter programmed films that will pull both family audiences to ‘Jungle Book,’ who have been vastly underserved so far this year and audiences looking to revisit the fun of the ‘Barbershop’ ensemble,” he said.

“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 approximately 2,600 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.

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