Box-Office Preview: Will 'Beauty and the Beast' Waltz to New Records?

The Disney live-action fairy tale may score one of the biggest March openings ever, in addition to matching or topping 'Finding Dory' for all-time best starts for a family film.

Talk about a monstrous start.

Beauty and the Beast — director Bill Condon's live-action update of the classic 1991 animated musical — is expected to waltz to a $120 million-$130 million North American debut this weekend in another big win for Disney.

The forecast is also rosy overseas, where Beauty should clear another $100 million.

Domestically, some think Beauty has a shot at scoring the top launch of all time for a PG title, besting Pixar and Disney's Finding Dory, which swam off with $135 million last summer. And the musical is nearly assured of securing the top debut of all time for a Disney live-action fairy tale, eclipsing the $116.1 million bow of Alice in Wonderland in 2010.

Beauty, produced by Mandeville Films, should also boast one of the top domestic starts for a March release. The current record-holder is last year's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice with $166.1 million, followed by The Hunger Games with $152.5 million in 2012 and Alice in Wonderland.

As with the animated film, Beauty is the story of a princess named Belle (Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame) who is taken prisoner by a fearsome Beast (Dan Stevens) in his enchanted castle while trying to avoid a narcissistic suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). The 1991 animated film was an adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's fairy tale.

Kevin Kline, Josh Gad — who plays Disney's first openly gay character — Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson also star.

Advance ticket sales for the Disney movie are the biggest for any family film in Fandango's 17-year history, topping Finding Dory. According to Fandango, plenty of adults and teens plan on seeing Beauty with a date, significant other or friend (43 percent) in addition to the traditional family audience (44 percent).

Beauty cost $160 million to produce.

The only other new film daring to open nationwide this weekend is Orion Pictures' low-budget horror thriller The Belko Experiment, which Blumhouse's distribution arm, BT Tilt, is releasing in 1,250 to 1,300 locations (compared to more than 4,200 cinemas for Beauty).

Written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Belko Experiment is tracking to bow in the $4 million range.

Debuting at the specialty box office is Sony/Tri-Star's T2: Trainspotting, which opens in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The sequel has done strong business in the U.K., grossing more than $20 million to date.

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