“The Boss Baby” (20th Century Fox) and “Ghost in the Shell” (Paramount), two films from different DreamWorks divisions, make their debuts Friday in what will be a close race for second behind the Disney steamroller that is “Beauty and the Beast.”
After opening to $175 million, this live-action redo of Disney’s 1991 animated classic continued to stun by dropping just under 50 percent in its second weekend, to $90 million. A similar fall would put Bill Condon’s musical at $45 million weekend, which will be plenty to keep it atop the Top Ten.
This weekend’s revenues could push “Beauty” to $400 million in only 17 days. That achievement would place it right behind the two latest “Star Wars” films, “The Avengers” and “Jurassic World,” all of which had the advantage of vacation or holiday playtime.
The two DreamWorks entries appeal to different audiences. “The Boss Baby” is animated, the first major release since “The Lego Batman Movie” in early February, and comes from a studio whose recent titles (“Trolls” and “Kung Fu Panda 3”) opened to over $40 million last year. DreamWorks Animation’s 2015 “Home,” the last to debut in early spring, started out at $52 million.
None of those had to contend with a beast like “Beauty” for the family audience. Though “The Boss Baby” has its roots in a recent kids’ picture book, it doesn’t have the force of a sequel or the presold elements often seen in breakout animated films. The DreamWorks brand has been reliable, but it has not broken the $200 million mark (routine for Pixar and other Disney cartoon films as well as for Universal’s Illumination brand) in almost five years.
Already open in some foreign territories, “The Boss Baby” has taken in around $20 million ahead of wider dates. It has received mediocre or lower advance reviews, which contribute to the guess that this will take in around $30 million-$35 million initially.
That range also seems to be the expectation for “Ghost in the Shell.” Long gestating as a live-action adaptation of the classic manga (and previously seen animated in a 1995 version), the $120 million-budget action film is the first big-budget action-heroine release in a while. Stand alone entries like “Lucy” (also starring Scarlett Johansson) have become substantial successes, while franchises like “The Hunger Games” and the still-vital “Resident Evil” series (particularly internationally) have thrived with kick-ass female stars.
Despite the renown among Manga fans, it’s still unfamiliar to mass audiences and thus faces the problem of many non-franchise live-action films: Domestic audiences take a wait-and-see attitude. Overseas, that could be less of an issue, so it’s possible an opening gross over $30 million could be sufficient to propel this to success.
What remains to be seen is what, if any, issue remains over objections to casting a Western actress in the role of what had been a Japanese character. The eclectic cast (mostly Asian) includes Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt.
Straddling the line between wide and specialized, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” (Focus) is going the same route as Fox Searchlight’s “Wilson” by eschewing an initial platform strategy in favor of going nationwide to theaters that reach out to adult upscale viewers. Also similar to “Wilson,” it has not received good initial reviews. Set and made in Central Europe, this Holocaust story stars Jessica Chastain and Daniel Bruehl and was directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “North Country”). The subject matter and its non-fiction book origins, as well as its cast, should elevate it beyond the noninterest for “Wilson,” but critical response should have an impact. The best-case model for this film is “Woman in Gold,” which Weinstein opened in 258 theaters exactly two years ago and parlayed a $2 million opening to a $33 million domestic success.