Fueled by females of all ages, director Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast opened to a monstrous $170 million-plus from 4,210 theatres at the North American box office, one of biggest openings of all time.

The update of the classic 1991 animated musical is destined to set a number of records, including the biggest start ever for a PG title.

Beauty also passed up the $166 million domestic debut of last year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice to land the top March opening of all time. Better yet, the family friendly movie boasts one of the top 10 openings of all time, and the biggest outside of summer save for fellow 2015 December blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not accounting for inflation.

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The $160 million tentpole is another major win for Disney, where studio chairman Alan Horn — who worked with Beauty star Emma Watson on the Harry Potter franchise when running Warner Bros. — and production chief Sean Bailey have been intent on mining Disney’s classic animated vault and building a stable of live-action movies. Past wins include The Jungle BookMaleficentCinderella and Alice in Wonderland.

Audiences gave Beauty and the Best an A CinemaScore. Femmes made up 72 percent of the audience, while 28 percent were males.

The film saw a nice boost from a full run in Imax theatres, generally known as a haven for fanboys, and not families. But with PG films booming, Imax is expanding its programming to include such fare. Imax worked with Condon on making a special version of Beauty that allows more to be seen on the screen because of a different aspect ratio.

Beauty and the Beast stars Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, and the cast also includes Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

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The tale follows Belle, who attempts to rescue her father from the castle of a terrifying beast, and instead becomes his captor. But she soon starts to fall for the Beast and the enchanted staff of his castle, who were all put under a spell by a witch.

Beauty is also opening around the world and should earn at least $100 million overseas. It took in a strong $11.5 million on its opening day, debuting as the No. 1 film in all but one market (Slovakia, where it was the No. 1 non-local film). It is also doing well in Russia, despite a restrictive rating slapped on the film after Condon recently revealed that Gad’s character, Gaston’s sidekick, is gay.

Censors in Malaysia have gone one step further and asked Disney to cut what it deems a “gay moment,” but the studio says it won’t make any changes.

The only other film daring to opposite nationwide opposite Beauty was The Belko Experiment, which grossed $4.1 million from 1,341 theatres for a seventh-place finish. Written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), The Belko Experiment is an Orion Pictures’ low-budget horror thriller which Blumhouse’s alternative distribution arm, BT Tilt.

Belko, directed by Greg McLean, follows a group of 80 Americans who are locked in their high-rise office in Bogota, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed in order to survive.

Two male-fueled titles placed No. 2 and No. 3, Kong: Skull Island and Logan, respectively.

Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Kong fell a respectable 53 percent in its second weekend to $28.9 million for a domestic total of $110.1 million. The movie’s main challenge remains recouping its hefty production budget of at least $185 million.

In its third outing, Fox’s Logan neared the $200 million mark domestically, grossing $17.5 million for a cume of $184 million. The final and third Wolverine movie has earned north of $500 million globally.

 

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