‘Logan’ to Launch Blockbuster Season at Box Office With $80 Million Opening

Box office analysts expect March will bring the first smash hits of 2017, thanks to “Beauty and the Beast” and “Kong: Skull Island”

Though 2017 has seen some surprise hits at the box office like “Hidden Figures,” “Split,” and “Get Out,” it has yet to produce a true blockbuster on par with last year’s biggest hits. That’s expected to change starting this weekend, as Fox kicks off March with “Logan,” Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s final X-Men movie.

Trackers have high expectations for the R-rated superhero movie, projecting an opening weekend of $78-80 million. Last year, Fox set a box office record for R-rated movies with another flick about a mutant superhero: “Deadpool,” which made $132 million in its opening weekend last year. Although “Logan” is far darker in tone than the fourth-wall breaking, joke-filled “Deadpool” (it’s similarly as gruesome), comic book fans aren’t likely to skip out on one last chance to see Jackman and Stewart play Wolverine and Professor X.

“Logan” takes place in a not-too-distant future where Wolverine and Professor X — a.k.a. Logan and Charles Xavier — are among the very few mutants who have survived extermination. Logan works as a limo driver in New Mexico to take care of Xavier, who has fallen into severe dementia. Logan has no interest in being a hero anymore, but that changes when he encounters Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant clone who shares his DNA. At Xavier’s urging, Logan risks everything to take Laura to the Canadian border to escape the clutches of unethical mutant researchers.

Directed by James Mangold, the film also stars Boyd Holbrook and Stephen Merchant. Richard E. Grant. Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, and Lauren Shuler Donner are producing.

“Logan” marks the start of a very busy March for movie theaters, as studios unload their heavyweights now that the Oscars are behind us. The tentpoles will be coming in week by week. “Logan” is followed later this month by Legendary’s “Kong: Skull Island” and “Power Rangers,” Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and Paramount’s “Ghost In The Shell.”

These films, particularly “Logan” and “Beauty,” are expected to be 2017’s first blockbusters to blow past the $200 million domestic milestone. Over the last two months, the domestic box office has been sustained by seven movies that have made over $100 million, including “La La Land” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” 2016, by comparison, only had four movies that passed that mark by the end of February.

But two of those four 2016 films “Deadpool” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” made a combined $534 million during that span, approximately the same as 2017’s top four films combined (“Figures,” “Lego Batman,” “Split,” “Rogue One”). Now, with this month’s slate, we may see more runaway hits earlier in the year than before, especially “Beauty and the Beast,” which is expected to gross over $1 billion worldwide.

“We’ve seen a bit of a deficit so far in 2017, but March is going to bring us right out of it,” comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “It’s going to be a very exciting time for moviegoers and a very competitive one for distributors. ‘Logan’ is taking advantage of that last bit of open market to get the most bang for its buck.”

“Logan” is expected to blow away the competition this weekend, which includes Summit’s “The Shack” and Open Road’s “Before I Fall.” “The Shack” stars Sam Worthington as a grieving father who receives a surprise visit from God (Octavia Spencer and Graham Greene) after the murder of his daughter. The film, directed by Stuart Hazeldine and produced by Gil Netter and Brad Cummings, is projected to make $10-12 million and finish third behind “Logan” and “Get Out,” which is in its second weekend.

“Before I Fall” stars Zoey Deutch as a high school senior who discovers that she is dead and is currently experiencing her last day alive on an endless loop. The film is directed by Ry Russo-Young and produced by Matthew Kaplan, Brian Robbins and Jonathan Shestack. It is projected to make $7 million this weekend.