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Thinking outside the box office: Critters abound, but Disney remains king of the jungle

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Thinking outside the box office: Critters abound, but Disney remains king of the jungle

The menagerie of critters seen in "The Jungle Book"will continue their stampede through theaters during the weekend of April 29, evenas three other wide releases look to unseat WaltDisney Co.'s latest blockbuster.

Already, Mowgli and his rainforest friends have shaken theatersat the core, delivering big results at the expense of several other films. Notably,Universal Pictures' "The Huntsman: Winter's War" fellflat with a debut gross below $20 million, scraping under even the lowest forecastsfor an already downbeat consensus.

A week after Universal's "Huntsman" disappointed, there'sa fresh batch of titles expected to be overtaken by "Jungle Book," butit seems time is running out for the Disney film. The May 6 release of "CaptainAmerica: Civil War" should push "The Jungle Book" off the top spotwith a release that could touch $200 million, according to early projections. April29 will launch a "quiet weekend before the storm," as one analyst toldVariety.

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The Jungle Book

Source: Disney

At the top of the weekend's list of new releases, "Keanu"will put an adorable kitten in the hands of Comedy Central stars Jordan Peele andKeegan-Michael Key in hopes to out-cute the competition. Besides "The JungleBook," which stands to add another $40 million-plus to its box office totalof more than $200 million, "Keanu" could lead ticket sales as it is alreadyleading among reviewers, but it will face some sturdy competition.

BoxOffice.comdelivers the most bullish forecast for the kitten-flick at $15 million, matchingthe reported production costs of the low-budget comedy. Variety offers a range of $10 million to $12 million, and DeadlineHollywood comes in at the low end with a flat $10 million estimate.

Similar silly bros-on-adventure films like "The Hangover,""21 Jump Street" and "Pineapple Express" did fairly well, iflargely by merit of their low budgets. Profit margins for each of those films were52.2%, 34.1% and 23.1%, respectively. None crested the $60 million mark in productioncosts, but each was far more costly than the reported budget for "Keanu."

"Let's Be Cops" was the only flick among five similarselections by SNL Kagan to come close to "Keanu" on a cost basis, runningjust $17.2 million. It delivered an opening gross of $17.8 million and left boxoffices with a 27.2% margin.

As bro-comedies featuring kidnapped kittens go, "Keanu"is doing well among critics. The film had a 74% "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes as of 3 p.m. ET April 29. That result was far superior to the comedy'sbiggest competition: "Mother's Day."

"Mother's Day" is a romantic comedy starring JenniferAniston, Julia Roberts and Jason Sudeikis that, despite a dismal critical reception,should give "Keanu" a run for its money. Variety puts the holiday film's opening at $12 million, at the highend of the range it offered for "Keanu." Deadline forecasts "Mother'sDay" will open ahead of "Keanu" with $12 million, $2 million higherthan its projection for the kitty comedy. BoxOffice.com tempers expectations for"Mother's Day" with a forecast of $9.5 million.

Poor historical results for similar films match the poor reviewscoming in for "Mother's Day." Titles like "Love the Coopers,""The Big Wedding" and "New Year's Eve" saw negative marginsof 46.6%, 57.5% and 21.5%, respectively. "He's Just No That Into You"and "Valentine's Day" both scored profits for their studios, raking in$54.9 million and $43.3 million over costs, respectively. The average margin forthe group was negative 0.5% after an average opening gross of $22.6 million andan average total revenue figure of $170.5 million.

While it is not typical for studios to keep alive low-grossingfranchises with profit losses, somehow director Garry Marshall got an exception."Mother's Day" was created to be the third installment in a feel-goodholiday trilogy that includes "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve,"with each title disappointing both audiences and reviewers. "Valentine'sDay" received the best Rotten Tomatoes score of the three at just 18%."New Year's Eve"settled at 7%, a score matched by "Mother's Day" as of 3p.m. ET on April 29.

The third film to enter under the shadow of "The JungleBook" will be video-game adaptation "Ratchet & Clank," a family-friendlyanimation that follows the story of a cat and his robot friend.

Variety and Deadlineagree that the flick will clock in just shy of $10 million mark, but still in theupper single digits. BoxOffice.com, on the other hand, delivers a decidedly bearishforecast of just $4.5 million.

Similar titles featuring new and little known animated and videogame heroes have not fared so well. A list of films that includes "Space Chimps,""9" and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" finished in thered on average, with a negative group profit margin of 27.4%. Only "Space Chimps"mustered profitability among the group. However, with an average negative cost of$58 million, including "Final Fantasy's" big $115 million budget, it islikely "Ratchet & Clank" will count costs below the group.

Critics were not very enthusiastic about the title, giving ita 22% "rotten"score as of 3 p.m. ET on April 29.

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