NEW YORK — The taskmaster toddler of The Boss Baby dethroned the live-action Beauty and the Beast at the box office with a $49 million debut, handing its star Alec Baldwin what President Trump might call a "huge" No. 1 opening.
The animated release starring Baldwin as a suit-clad baby narrowly edged out the previous two-week leader, according to studio estimates Sunday. Disney's Beauty and the Beast took in $47.5 million in its third weekend.
"We expected a decent opening. We didn't expect to be number one," says Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox distribution chief.
Despite the popularity of Beauty and the Beast (nearly $400 million domestically in 17 days, and $876.3 million globally), Boss Baby was able to attract its own family audience.
Aronson credited that partly to the appeal of Baldwin, whose impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live has been ubiquitous. Boss Baby also evokes Baldwin's old Glengarry Glen Ross character with quips like "Cookies are for closers."
"Alec Baldwin's voice is recognizable in general. But he's so topical now because of some of the other things he's doing right now," Aronson says. "It's a very distinctive voice, and if you put it on a baby, it's funny."
The controversy-plagued Ghost in the Shell, a remake of a classic 1995 Japanese anime film, couldn't compete with either family-friendly release. The dystopian science-fiction thriller, starring Scarlett Johansson, opened with just $19 million, finishing third, a poor showing for a film that cost about $110 million to make.
Many took issue with the casting of Johansson as the cyborg protagonist who was Japanese in the original, calling it another example of Hollywood "whitewashing."
"We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews," says Kyle Davies, domestic distribution chief for Paramount. "You've got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it's based on a Japanese anime movie. So you're always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That's challenging but clearly the reviews didn't help."
Audiences appeared to agree with critics, giving the film a mediocre B grade on CinemaScore.
Ghost in the Shell will instead hope to find more eager moviegoers in Japan (where the casting controversy hasn't resonated) and China next weekend. Opening in most other international countries this weekend, Ghost in the Shell took in a modest $40.1 million.
Teen sci-fi drama Power Rangers tumbled to fourth place with $14.5 million. Rounding out the top five: Monster movie Kong: Skull Island with $8.8 million.
In limited release, The Zookeeper's Wife, starring Jessica Chastain, opened well with $3.3 million at 541 locations. Based on Diane Ackerman's non-fiction book, the film is about a woman's efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Final figures are expected Monday.
© 2017 Associated Press