By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Variety.com) - Disney's second weekend of blockbuster "Beauty and the Beast" is dominating moviegoing in North America with $88.3 million at 4,210 locations -- capping the best March ever.
Lionsgate's rebooted "Power Rangers" is launching with a solid $40.5 million this weekend while Sony's space-thriller "Life" showed only moderate traction with $12.6 million. Warner Bros.' action-comedy "Chips" opened with a disappointing $7.6 million at 2,464 sites.
The "Beauty and the Beast" weekend is one for the record books as the fourth-largest second weekend of all time, trailing only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at $149 million, "Jurassic World" at $106 million, and "Marvel's The Avengers" at $103 million.
"Beauty and the Beast," starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, declined just 49% from its opening weekend, which was the seventh-best ever. And after just 10 days in North American theaters, "Beauty and the Beast" is already 55th on the all-time domestic list at $317 million. It's the fourth-largest 10-day domestic total ever.
"Beauty and the Beast," along with Fox's "Logan," Warner's "Kong: Skull Island," and Universal's "Get Out," have led a charge over the past month that has given the domestic box office a major boost. According to comScore, March box office has already hit $1 billion for the first time -- with five days left in the month.
"March has become a rockstar of a month and in particular 2017 enjoyed a perfect storm of new hits and strong February releases that showed amazing staying power like 'Get Out' and 'The Lego Batman Movie,' " said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. "The cumulative allure of an impressive slate of films conjured up a flat out great month in theaters, generating impressive momentum as the industry charges into what promises to be a furious April and a smashing summer movie season that kicks off in May with 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2.' "
Last year's March set a record with $948.8 million domestically, led by Disney's "Zootopia" ($255.9 million for the month) and Warner Bros.' "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($209.1 million).
"Power Rangers," a re-imagining of the 1990's television show about five teenage superheroes, outperformed expectations of about $30 million at 3,693 locations. The film earned an A CinemaScore from customers and A+ from the 30% of moviegoers under 18. The audience was 60% male.
The cast features Becky G as the Yellow Ranger, Ludi Lin as the Black Ranger, Naomi Scott as the Pink Ranger, Dacre Montgomery as the Red Ranger, and R.J. Cyler as the Blue Ranger. Elizabeth Banks plays the evil alien witch Rita Repulsa.
The movie centers on the origins of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a group of high schoolers given extraterrestrial powers who unite to save the world. Lionsgate and Haim Saban announced plans in 2014 for a live-action movie based on Saban's "Power Rangers" property as the first film in a franchise; Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer has asserted that it may do as many as seven films. "Power Rangers" carries a $100 million price tag.
David Spitz, Lionsgate's domestic theatrical distribution president, noted that the movie showed strong traction amid all demographics -- even with "Beauty and the Beast" remaining a potent draw. "We always thought the two films could be complementary to each other," he added.
Spitz also noted that "Power Rangers" debuted in the same late March slot as the studio's "Hunger Games" and "Divergent," enabling it to take advantage of the spring break for moviegoers. The third weekend of Warner-Legendary's "Kong: Skull Island" was headed for third place with $14.4 million at 3,666 locations, which gives the giant ape a domestic total of $133.5 million in its first 17 days.
Sony-Skydance's "Life" stars Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, and Jake Gyllenhaal as International Space Station astronauts threatened by an extraterrestrial life form. It's performing at the lower end of expectations in third place, despite generating mostly positive reviews with a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
David Ellison's Skydance financed 75% of "Life," which has a $58 million budget. Its audience was 55% male and 57% over 25.
The fourth weekend of Fox's "Logan" followed in fourth with $10.1 million at 3,687 sites. "Logan" is 2017's second highest grosser with $201.5 million in Hugh Jackman's farewell to the Wolverine character.
Universal-Blumhouse's fifth weekend of surprise hit "Get Out" finished fifth with $8.7 million at 2,474 locations. The horror-comedy, Jordan Peele's directorial debut, has become enormously profitable, given its $4.5 million budget.
Warner Bros. rolled out action-comedy "Chips," starring Dax Shepard and Michael Pena, amid muted expectations. The R-rated reboot of the TV series, which starred Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, has not gained much critical traction with a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the budget is a relatively modest $25 million.