‘Beauty and the Beast’ scares up $16.3 million in advance screenings

The live-action version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” did socko business on Thursday evening, in advance of its official opening on Friday. It took in $16.3 million in special screenings at some of the 4,210 locations where it will play this weekend. And with word that many of these showings are already sold out, expect its weekend takings to top $160 million.

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 The ticketing service Fandango reports that “Beauty and the Beast” has outsold last year’s biggest hit, “Finding Dory” as well as one of the other hottest titles: “Captain America: Civil War.” Oscar-winner Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”) helms this retelling of the 1991 original that was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles.

“Captain America” Civil War” opened on April 12, 2016 and took in just shy of $180 million in its first weekend, eventually grossing a staggering $408 million. “Finding Dory” debuted on June 17 and netted $135 million that first weekend; it ended its run with $486 million in the Disney coffers.

Even if “Beauty and the Beast” doesn’t reach the heights of “Captain America: Civil War,” it should easily outpace the current March open record-holder, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which grossed $166 million on the same weekend last year. Other strong March openers were “The Hunger Games” ($152 million in 2012) and “Alice in Wonderland” ($116 million in 2010).

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While the box office is sure to be boffo, the reviews are less sensational. The critics have weighed in with their thoughts and are all over the map as to the merits of this remake. To date, the movie scores 74 at Rotten Tomatoes and 64 at MetaCritic.

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