Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Bill Condon And Alan Menken  Arrive At Alice Tully Hall For The New York Special Screening Of Disney's Live-Action Adaptation "Beauty And The Beast"
A special screening of Disney's live-action adaptation "Beauty and the Beast" at Alice Tully Hall on March 13, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios

Hollywood May Have Another Record Year Thanks to ‘Beauty and the Beast’

The idea that Hollywood blockbuster films are only for summer is increasingly under siege. Several late-winter box office hits are bolstering hopes that the U.S. movie industry is well on its way to another record year in 2017.

So far this year, domestic box office grosses are up roughly 4% from the same point in the year in 2016, according to tracking website Box Office Mojo. From surprising box office champions, like the satirical horror film Get Out, to the latest Walt Disney blockbuster (this month's live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast), a string of successful early-year releases have helped fill movie theaters at a record-setting pace.

Last year's domestic box office totals were a record-breaking $11.4 billion. However, the number of actual movie tickets sold has been essentially flat in recent years.

This year, Hollywood has already grossed more than $2.8 billion at the domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo's numbers, with a shot at hitting the $3 billion mark as we head into the first weekend of April. March should be a billion-dollar month, thanks in large part to Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which roared out of the gate with a $174 million opening weekend that set a new record for the month. The film has already grossed more than $700 million worldwide and is on its way to becoming Disney's first billion-dollar blockbuster of 2017. (Last year, the "Mouse House" churned out a record four separate billion-dollar movies on its way to the biggest year ever for a Hollywood studio.)

BuzzFeed notes that Beauty and the Beast owes its massive success partly to its popularity with the often underserved female demographic, which comprised roughly 72% of the movie's opening weekend audience. That article also points to a handful of other female-friendly films that have fared well at the box office in recent months, including awards season fare like La La Land ($432 million) and Hidden Figures ($220 million).

And, while Disney has inarguably become Hollywood's gold-standard blockbuster producer—with several more potential box office hits in the pipeline this year—several other studios have also stepped up in the first three months of 2017 with successful releases that include big-budget action films and more modest fare in a variety of genres. That list includes Universal's Get Out, the race-focused horror film from comedian Jordan Peele, which reportedly cost less than $5 million to produce and has gone on to gross nearly $150 million domestically since its release last month. Another horror film from Universal, director M. Night Shyamalan's Split, has made $265 million worldwide despite needing only a reported $9 million to be made.

Other success stories include 20th Century Fox's R-rated superhero flick Logan ($566 million worldwide) and Warner Bros.'s animated film The LEGO Batman Movie ($292 million).

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Meanwhile, Hollywood has only scratched the surface of its slate of potential box office hits so far this year. This weekend brings a new animated movie from Fox, called The Boss Baby, and Paramount's sci-fi adaptation of the popular manga comic Ghost in the Shell. And, as the seasons shift from spring to summer, competition at movie theaters will only continue to heat up, with a long list of tentpoles and blockbuster hopefuls that starts in April with Universal's eighth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, followed a month later by Disney's latest Marvel sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

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