NEW YORK — The taskmaster toddler of "Boss Baby" dethroned Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" at the box office with a $49 million debut, handing its star Alec Baldwin what President Donald Trump might call a "huge" no. 1 opening. Paramount Pictures suffered another flop with its controversy-plagued "Ghost in the Shell."
The DreamWorks Animation release from 20th Century Fox, starring Baldwin as a suit-clad baby, narrowly edged out the previous two-week leader, according to studio estimates Sunday. The live-action "Beauty and the Beast" took in $48 million in its third weekend. Final North American ticket sales will be released Monday.
"We expected a decent opening. We didn't expect to be number one," said Chris Aronson, Fox distribution chief.
Despite the popularity of "Beauty and the Beast" (nearly $400 million domestically in 17 days, and $876.3 million globally), "Boss Baby" was able to attract its own family audience.
Aronson credited that partly to the appeal of Baldwin, whose impression of Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live" has lately been ubiquitous. "Boss Baby" also evokes Baldwin's old "Glengarry Glen Ross" character with quips like "Cookies are for closers."
"Alec Baldwin's voice is recognizable, in general. But he's so topical now because of some of the other things he's doing right now," said Aronson. "It's a very distinctive voice, and if you put it on a baby, it's funny."
"Ghost in the Shell," a remake of a classic 1995 Japanese anime film, couldn't compete with either family-friendly release. The dystopian science-fiction thriller, starring Scarlett Johansson, opened with just $19 million, a poor showing for a film that cost about $110 million to make.
Many took issue with the casting of Johansson as the cyborg protagonist who was Japanese in the original, calling it another example of Hollywood "whitewashing."
"We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews," said Kyle Davies, domestic distribution chief for Paramount. "You've got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it's based on a Japanese anime movie. So you're always trying to thread that needle between honouring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That's challenging but clearly the reviews didn't help."
Audiences appeared to agree with critics, giving the film a mediocre B CinemaScore.
"Ghost in the Shell" will instead hope to find more eager moviegoers in Japan (where the casting controversy has not resonated) and China next weekend. Opening in most other international countries this weekend, "Ghosts in the Shell" took in a modest $40.1 million.
Paramount has recently suffered a string of box-office disappointments. Last week, Viacom Inc. hired former Fox film head Jim Gianopulos to turn around its film division.
In limited release, Focus Features' "The Zookeeper's Wife," starring Jessica Chastain, opened well with $3.3 million at 541 locations. Based on Diane Ackerman's non-fiction book, the film is about a woman's efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust. It will expand next weekend.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres , according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Boss Baby," $49 million ($36.5 million international).
2. "Beauty and the Beast," $48 million. ($67 million international).
3. "Ghost in the Shell," $19 million ($40.1 million international).
4. "Power Rangers," $14.5 million.
5. "Kong: Skull Island," $8.8 million.
6. "Logan," $6.2 million.
7. "Get Out," $5.8 million.
8. "Life," $5.6 million
9. "Chips," $4.1 million.
10. "The Zookeeper's Wife," $3.4 million.
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Jake Coyle, The Associated Press