Beauty & the Beast smashes box-office

DISNEY’S “Beauty and the Beast” shattered box office records in its opening weekend, taking a monster $175.7 million in North America and $357 million in total.

The film, featuring “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson as Belle to the frightening Beast played by Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame, set a number of benchmarks, including the biggest debut ever for a PG title both domestically and in foreign markets, where it took $182.3 million.

It passed the $166 million US opening weekend of last year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” to become the top March opening of all time and beat “Iron Man 3″ to become the sixth-biggest domestic opening of all time.

Film site Fandango reported the movie had sold out at more than 1,000 showtimes in big cities and small, something more common for superhero blockbusters than for a family-oriented production.

“‘Beauty and the Beast’ will look to continue its domestic performance over the coming weeks after receiving an ‘A’ CinemaScore from opening day audiences, of which 72 percent were female,” said Brad Brevet of BoxOfficeMojo.

The movie, which had a whopping $300 million production and marketing budget, is the latest in an ever more lucrative production line of Disney live-action remakes of their animated classics that have recouped more than $4 billion worldwide.

It swept aside the previous North American box-office leader, Warner Brothers’ “Kong: Skull Island,” which managed a second-week take of $27.8 million — less than half its opening weekend sales.

“Kong,” which has taken in $109 million since its release, tells the story of a group of explorers on a mysterious island that proves to be the frightening domain of the mighty ape.

In third place on North American screens was “Logan,” in which Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character helps a young girl with claws of her own (Dafne Keen). The Fox production earned $17.8 million for the weekend, and $184 million over three weeks.

Next was Universal’s dark thriller “Get Out,” with $13.4 million in weekend receipts. The Universal film recounts the increasingly tense encounter between a young black man played by Daniel Kaluuya and the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams). It has taken in $133.3 million in four weeks.

Fifth was Lionsgate’s “The Shack,” with Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer, the story of a man who, after suffering a shocking personal tragedy, receives a mysterious invitation to go to a remote cabin deep in a forest. It took in $6 million for a three-week total of $42.5 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“The Lego Batman Movie” ($4.6 million)

“The Belko Experiment” ($4.1 million)

“Hidden Figures” ($1.5 million)

“John Wick: Chapter 2″ ($1.2 million)

“Before I Fall” ($1 million)

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