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'The Jungle Book' lands second highest April opening ever with $103.6 million

'The Jungle Book' lands second highest April opening ever with $103.6 million
An undaunted Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) encounters the giant python Kaa (hypnotically voiced by Scarlett Johansson). (Disney Enterprises Inc)

When Disney takes one of its animated fairy tales and creates a modern, live-action version, the result is usually box office gold. With "The Jungle Book," the trend continues.

The film, starring newcomer Neel Sethi, grossed an estimated $103.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, coming in well above the highest analyst projections of $80 million as well as the studio's more modest estimates of just $65 million. This makes it the second largest April opening in history, behind last year's "Furious 7," and the highest April opening for a PG-rated release, above 2011's "Hop."

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"We are ecstatic about where we're starting and what it means for the future," said Dave Hollis, the studio's distribution chief. "When you combine really high quality filmmaking and the reception you hoped for from critics and consumers enjoying it, the momentum started to snowball."

But "The Jungle Book," based on both Rudyard Kipling's late-19th century collection of stories and Disney's swinging animated musical from 1967, didn't come cheap. Directed by "Iron Man's" Jon Favreau, it cost an estimated $175 million to produce. It features the voices of Bill Murray, Idris Elba and Lupita Nyong'o as the animals of man-cub Mowgli's world.

Luckily, the Burbank entertainment giant has already 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 Jungle Book' cemented Disney Live Action, led by Sean Bailey, as the preeminent studio that's reimagining these stories for a new audience," Hollis said. He encourages audiences to stay tuned for forthcoming live action recreations of "Dumbo," "Cruella," "Maleficent 2" and "Beauty and the Beast.'

In addition to the Disney formula, "Jungle Book" also benefited from overwhelmingly positive reviews. It received a 95% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes critics, which was on par with the A grade audiences gave the film, according to polling firm CinemaScore.

The film also had a stellar performance globally, after opening this weekend in China, France, and Germany, among other markets. "The Jungle Book" took in $136.1 million internationally.

As for the week's other new releases, Warner Bros.' "Barbershop: The Next Cut" experienced a solid opening, but Lionsgate's "Criminal" struggled to find an audience.

"The Next Cut" landed in second place. Though it was projected to take in $25 million in ticket sales, the comedy sequel grossed $20.2 million in its first week.

The picture is the third sequel in the "Barbershop" franchise, the last of which, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," opened 12 years ago.  The original opened in 2002. The storyline follows Calvin, played by Ice Cube, as he owns and operates the barbershop he inherited from his father. Along for the franchise ride, as barbers in the shop, have been Cedric The Entertainer, Eve, Anthony Anderson and Sean Patrick Thomas. Joining the team in the latest installment is Common, Nicki Minaj and Regina Hall.

Comedy sequels are often gambles for studios, but "The Next Cut" received favorable reviews from audiences and critics alike. Moviegoers gave the movie an A-minus CinemaScore while 92% of Rotten Tomatoes critics rated it positively.

MGM and Ice Cube's Cube Vision oversaw production on the film.

As for Lionsgate's "Criminal," the action-suspense film starring Kevin Costner landed well behind a host of box office holdovers for a sixth-place finish with $5.85 million, below its $7-million to $9-million projections.

Costner plays a death row inmate whose mind is implanted with the memories of a dead operative. The film also features Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Gary Oldman.

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FOR THE RECORD

April 17, 1:44 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Kevin Costner plays a CIA agent in "Criminal." He plays a death row inmate.

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Universal Pictures' "The Boss" landed in third place in its second week. The comedy starring Melissa McCarthy added another $10.2 million to its box office-topping debut for a domestic gross to date of $40.4 million.

In fourth place was Warner Bros.' poorly reviewed "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." In its fourth week, the caped crusaders pulled in $9 million. This brings its gross to date to $311.3 million in North America.

Disney's "Zootopia" rounded out the top five with $8.2 million in its seventh week. This brings the animated picture's cumulative gross to $307.5 million.

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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