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Disney dusts off Aladdin's lamp, hoping to find new magic

It looks like Walt Disney Co. will not need a genie to dominate the 2019 box office, but the revamp of a classic tale should not hurt its chances.

While a live-action remake of "Aladdin" is not expected to be the blockbuster home run that some of Disney's other live-action remakes were, forecasters expect a strong bow. Variety offers one of the more bullish expectations for the long Memorial Day weekend, saying the film could land as high as $85 million. BoxOffice.com is more conservative, agreeing with Variety's low end at $75.7 million. Deadline Hollywood, meanwhile, keeps the genie in the bottle with a forecast range that bottoms at $73 million.

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"Aladdin"
Source: Disney

Those estimates are conservative considering Disney dropped $183 million to produce the film, but even when Disney opens films below the $100 million mark it still can manage solid profitability. "Maleficent" opened at just $69.4 million in 2014 against a $182.1 million budget, and it still conjured up net profits of $389.5 million, according to data from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

So while "Aladdin" will struggle to hit high marks set by other live-action remakes such as "Beauty and the Beast," which opened to $174.8 million in 2017, or "The Jungle Book," with a $103.3 million debut in 2016, the data still favors the wily street rat and his magical muse.

Though "Dumbo," Disney's last live-action effort, failed to take flight with a $45 million, "Aladdin" should be a nice placeholder between its record-breaking success with "Avengers: Endgame" and what promises to be a return to form for its classics reboots with "Lion King."

"Aladdin" has the benefit of being the only family film released over the holiday weekend, but critics are shrugging off the effort. The remake had a middling 59% score on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 1:00 p.m. ET on May 24.

The other two movies launching are coming-of-age comedy "Booksmart" and superhero-horror flick "Brightburn." Neither is expected to reach blockbuster status, but they also likely had much more modest budgets.

Forecasters are split on which movie will get the edge, but BoxOffice.com and Variety give that nod to "Booksmart." BoxOffice.com believes that debut could land at $10.3 million for the long weekend. Variety sees more upside, with a forecast range of $10 million to $16 million. Deadline is the naysayer, believing the female-led comedy will drop in the single digits.

The film follows a couple of nerdy high-school girls as they try to make up for lost time on the eve of graduation. It skews young, and Kagan compares it to cult classic "Superbad" as well as other irreverent comedies. The movie would have to knock forecasts out of the park to reach "Superbad" status, which opened to $33.1 million in 2007, but a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes could help. A list of five Kagan comparisons may offer a more realistic outlay for "Booksmart," based on forecasts. Those saw an average opening of $11.7 million. That may not bode well for the United Artists movie, as those comparisons saw an average profit loss of $11.1 million.

Given that "Brightburn" lands in a cross-genre territory where superheroes and horrors have been performing well, Deadline forecasts a $12 million opening, giving it the edge over "Booksmart." Variety believes it could go that high, while BoxOffice.com expects the movie to land below $10 million.

In the film's favor, it was produced by James Gunn of "Guardians of the Galaxy" fame, and it only cost Sony Corp.'s Screen Gems studio $6 million to make.

Kagan compares the debut to other movies featuring evil-powered youngsters like "Chronicle" and "The Omen," which opened at $22.0 million and $16.0 million, respectively, and went on to solid profitability in the $50 million range. While "Brightburn" is not expected to open that high, those movies also cost more to produce.

"Brightburn" had a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 1:00 p.m. ET on May 24.

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