‘Beauty and the Beast’ Waltzes Into Theaters With $16.3 Million at Thursday Box Office

Film sees biggest preview gross of the year and the biggest ever for a Disney live-action title

Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” earned $16.3 million at the Thursday box office, ahead of what analysts are predicting will be a monster opening weekend for the remake.

This is the biggest preview gross of the year and the biggest ever for a Disney live-action title, the second biggest ever for a PG film and the third biggest ever for a March opener.

Comparatively, Disney’s “Cinderella” made $2.3 million at the Thursday box office in 2015, and both “Maleficent” and “The Jungle Book” earned $4.2 million in previews, which was previously the biggest for a Disney-live action title. “Logan” had previously held the top preview gross number of 2017 with $9.5 million.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” earned $27.7 million at the previews last year and topped off the weekend with a whopping $166 million domestically.

The live-action musical opens in 4,210 theaters in the United States and Canada this Friday, including Premium Large Format and 3D locations. Disney anticipates an opening weekend of $120 million for the film, and interest has only gone up in recent weeks given clever marketing and generally solid reviews which now stand at 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Some analysts said they could even see the film opening in the $150 million to $160 million range.

The film stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson and was directed by Bill Condon. It was produced for $160 million.

The movie opened day-and-date in about 67 percent of the international market, including Germany, Italy, Russia, Portugal, Greece, United Kingdom, China, Sweden, India and Thailand.

The film opened at No. 1 in Italy, Germany, Korea and Brazil. It took in a strong $11.5 million.

Leading up to the film’s release, the movie faced a little bit of controversy when Condon said the film would feature an “exclusively gay moment.” In response, an Alabama theater decided to pull the film, and it received an age restriction in Russia, which passed a law in 2013 banning so-called gay “propaganda.” In Malaysia, where censors sought to cut the gay scene, Disney decided to pull the film altogether.

This weekend also sees the opening of Blumhouse Productions’ “The Belko Experiment,” starring John Gallagher, Jr., Tony Goldwyn and Adria Arjona. The BH Tilt release grossed $305,000 in previews on Thursday.

The production house anticipates an opening in the $4 million range. Greg McLean directed on a script by James Gunn. Peter Safran (“The Conjuring”) produced with Gunn.