Disney's on a Roll as ‘Jungle Book’ Opens at $103.6 Million

  • Debut was third-biggest so far this year, ComScore says
  • `Barbershop' new release is distant second at $20.2 million

“The Jungle Book,” a live-action retelling of the Walt Disney Co. animation classic, topped the box office on its debut weekend, setting up the studio for what some analysts say could be one of its best years ever at theaters.

The movie, based on the classic children’s book by Rudyard Kipling, brought in an estimated $103.6 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, ComScore Inc. said in an e-mailed statement. That was the second-best April opening ever, behind only “Furious 7” last year, and easily beat two other new releases, the comedy “Barbershop: The Next Cut” and the action movie “Criminal,” which placed second and sixth, respectively.

Disney enters 2016 with all five of its film units -- including Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar -- firing on all cylinders. That’s led some analysts to predict the company will release a record number of $1 billion movies in a single year. Along with the success of “Zootopia” and this weekend’s “Jungle Book,” Disney soon will release the Marvel movie “Captain America: Civil War,” which already has wowed critics three weeks before its U.S. release.
 

“Disney probably has four $1 billion movies this year,” Jeff Bock, analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., said in an interview. Universal Pictures currently holds the record, with three in 2015. “All you can do is mimic them. Unlike Universal Pictures, Disney isn’t going to have a down year for maybe a decade.”

“Jungle Book” had been forecast to generate $81 million in its debut weekend, though analysts at Boxoffice.com raised their prediction to more than $100 million before the weekend. Bock said the movie could gross $1 billion worldwide. Ticket sales are split roughly 50-50 with theater owners.

The film’s domestic opening was the third-largest this year, behind “Batman v Superman” and “Deadpool,” ComScore said. Its worldwide total this weekend was $239.7 million, the research firm said. Without adjusting for ticket-price inflation, “The Jungle Book” claimed the 32nd-biggest opening weekend of all time, according to BoxOffice.com.

Creature Characters

Directed by Jon Favreau, best known for his acting roles, “Jungle Book” tells the story of man-cub Mowgli, voiced by Neel Sethi, who flees the jungle after a threat from tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Heavy with special effects to create the lifelike creatures, Mowgli, like in the original, is guided by Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) and the bear Baloo (Bill Murray.)

Critics raved about the remake, with 94 percent positive reviews, according to review aggregator Rottentomatoes.com. “Favreau’s Jungle Book fills us with something rare in movies today -- a sense of wonder,” Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone.

Disney’s track record so far in 2016 suggests the studio may be heading toward one of its best years at the box office. “Zootopia” scored 98 percent positive reviews and had grossed $864.5 million worldwide after six weeks in theaters. Last week, Disney held the premiere of “Captain America: Civil War,” which opens May 6, and the reception is as positive as for “Jungle Book,” with some reviewers saying it’s the best Marvel movie yet. Analysts at Boxoffice.com estimate it will gross $490 million in the U.S. and Canada, and likely more than double that with international sales.

No Stars Needed

At the annual convention of theater owners in Las Vegas last week, Disney took a low-key approach, without the use of stars.

“They are obviously very confident in what they have got,” Shawn Robbins, an analyst at Boxoffice.com, said in an interview.

Instead Disney shared 27 minutes of “Finding Dory,” the long-awaited sequel to Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” The feedback on social media was strong. Erik Davis, managing editor of website Fandango, tweeted that the segment was “emotional, funny and beautiful to watch.”

Strong Lineup

Barton Crockett, an analyst at FBR & Co., estimates that Disney will bring in $2.79 billion this year at the domestic box office, topping last year’s $2.5 billion. That total included the studio’s first “Star Wars” movie, which went on to break box-office records.

“It is a stronger-looking film slate than we have ever seen in the history of studio film slate presentations,” Crockett said in an interview, referring to Disney’s 2016 lineup. “They are hitting on all cylinders with all of their big brands.”

Not only does the studio have the first of its “Star Wars” spinoff films this year with “Rogue One,” it also will release “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” Roald Dahl’s “The BFG,” “Pete’s Dragon” and another Marvel movie, “Doctor Strange.”

Disney shares have declined 6.2 percent this year as ESPN, its biggest profit contributor, continues to suffer from subscriber losses. Studio entertainment accounted for 14 percent of Disney’s revenue last year and 13.4 percent of its operating income, making it the third-biggest unit behind TV networks and parks. Last fiscal year’s revenue of $7.37 billion and operating income of $1.97 billion were both records for the studio unit.

“Jungle Book” faced little competition from other new releases. Warner Bros.’ “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” collected $20.2 million, topping a forecast of $19 million from Boxoffice.com. The movie stars Ice Cube reprising his role as barber Calvin at a Chicago neighborhood barbershop after more than a decade. The film scored highly with critics, garnering 91 percent positive reviews. In the latest installment, Calvin tries to keep his son from getting pulled into a gang and encourages a cease fire in exchange for free haircuts.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “Criminal,” featuring Kevin Costner and Ryan Reynolds, was panned by critics, with only 26 percent positive reviews. It grossed $5.85 million, below a forecast of $7.5 million from Hollywood Stock Exchange. Reynolds plays a CIA agent on a mission to track down a hacker. After he’s ambushed and killed, his memories are transferred to an ex-convict played by Costner who’s given the mission to find the hacker.

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