FOR SO LONG, March came in like a CGI lion and went out like an animated lamb. The month was often a safe space to open such kiddie fare as Fox/Blue Sky’s animal cartoons and handily win an audience.
But that was before dark comic books, apocalyptic visions and adapted live-action Disney flicks moved in and took up residence.
It was precisely a decade ago that Zack Snyder’s R-rated and bloody “300,” adapted from Frank Miller’s comic, had a domestic opening weekend of $70.9 million — then the biggest March debut ever (not adjusting for inflation).
Three years later, Disney hit it huge, as Tim Burton’s live-action-plus-CGI “Alice in Wonderland” had a massive $116.1 million opening. Two years later, “The Hunger Games” — the first film in the dystopian series — debuted to $152.6 million. Then last year, Snyder took back the March crown, as another comics-spawned film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” had the biggest March bow ever, with $166 million.
This year, all those paths to early-season success are converging.
Last week, Fox’s comics-adapted “Logan” grossed $88.4 million in its domestic debut. The studio has five of the 20 biggest March openings ever — but the Wolverine film represents the only one that is live-action.
Two years ago, Disney’s live-action “Cinderella” opened to $67.9 million in March. Now, some industry experts are wondering whether the Mouse House’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” can open on Friday at a figure approaching twice that number.
Meanwhile, a different sort of beast/beauty story, WB’s “Kong: Skull Island,” won the weekend with a $61 million opening, according to studio estimates Sunday; final numbers are due Monday afternoon.
Although “Kong” topped early expectations, that total still represents only the 11th-best March debut ever. (The film has a $185 million production budget to boot and might need to top the half-billion-dollar mark worldwide to be considered a success.)
In some years, a March “Kong” might have some open room to roam. But “Logan” — with a second weekend of $37.9 million — has grossed $152.7 million domestically. And WB’s “Lego Batman Movie” ($7.8 million) continues to have legs in March.
Plus, “Power Rangers,” “The Boss Baby” and “Ghost in the Shell” have yet to open this month.
Meanwhile, one other genre that used to have some box-office elbow room in March — horror (“Dawn of the Dead,” “The Haunting in Connecticut,” “Resident Evil”) — continues to be well-represented with one of the breakout success stories of the year.
“Get Out,” which opened at the end of February, just had a $21 million weekend — and has now grossed $111 million domestically on a mere $4.5 million budget.
March might be one crowded corridor these days, but originality can still win out.