Disney's new version of "The Jungle Book" is poised for a strong opening weekend at the box office, making it another likely success in the studio's efforts to reimagine its classic animated tales as live-action blockbusters.
According to people who have seen prerelease audience surveys, "The Jungle Book" should gross more than $70 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday after its Thursday night debut. Some analysts think it may even pass $80 million in its initial weekend.
That would be a powerful start for the new movie, which is based both on Rudyard Kipling's late-19th century collection of stories and Disney's swinging animated musical from 1967.
The Burbank entertainment giant has found a robust business in modern fairy tale remakes, including hits like 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" ($1 billion in global box office sales) and 2014's "Maleficent" ($758 million). Last's year's "Cinderella" fetched nearly $68 million in its opening weekend, leading to more than $200 million total in the U.S. and Canada and an additional $341 million from other countries.
The new "Jungle Book" didn't come cheap. Directed by "Iron Man's" Jon Favreau, it cost an estimated $175 million to produce. It features the voices of Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba and Ben Kingsley as the animals of man-cub Mowgli's world. The studio is projecting a more conservative opening of $65 million.
The film should benefit from overwhelmingly positive reviews and a lack of competition from other family films. Disney's computer-animated "Zootopia" is entering its seventh week in release, having grossed more than $850 million so far globally.
"The Jungle Book" should also perform well internationally. It's expected to take in $75 million outside the U.S. and Canada this weekend as it opens in China, France, Germany and other markets. The film has already hauled in $29 million from foreign countries.
Warner Bros.'s comedy sequel "Barbershop: The Next Cut" also appears to be headed for a solid opening. Starring franchise stalwarts Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer, plus newcomers like rapper Nicki Minaj, the film is expected to do $25 million in ticket sales this weekend.
Comedy sequels are gambles for studios, especially since the last "Barbershop" came out 14 years ago. But "The Next Cut" has so far enjoyed largely favorable reviews from critics, indicated by an 88% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. MGM oversaw production on the film, which is getting distribution from Warner Bros.
Elsewhere at theaters, Lionsgate will unveil its new action-suspense movie "Criminal," starring Kevin Costner as a CIA agent whose mind is implanted with the memories of a dead operative. Also featuring Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Gary Oldman, the picture is expected to bring in $7 million to $9 million.
And then there's still the holdovers to contend with, including "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and last weekend's victor, "The Boss" starring Melissa McCarthy. Universal Pictures' "The Boss" narrowly unseated the Warner Bros. superhero epic last week with its $23.6-million opening.