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'Beauty and the Beast' tops box office again – how easy is it to stay at No. 1 today?

'Beauty and the Beast' ruled the box office for the second weekend in a row. The March slump may be one of the keys to its success.

'Beauty and the Beast' stars Dan Stevens as the Beast.
Disney/AP
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The Disney live-action remake “Beauty and the Beast” came in at No. 1 at the box office for the second weekend in a row following its March 17 opening. It seems to be more difficult than it used to be for a movie to stay in the top spot for multiple weekends, though the March opening date for “Beauty and the Beast” likely gave it an advantage (despite the increasing competitiveness of the early spring months).

“Beauty and the Beast” achieved its top spot by grossing more than $88 million in its second weekend. The new movie “Power Rangers,” which is based off the 1990s Fox children’s television series, came in second, grossing more than $40 million in its opening weekend. 

The holdover “Kong: Skull Island,” which opened on March 10, placed third, taking in more than $14 million, while the new science fiction film “Life” opened below that, placing fourth with an opening weekend gross of more than $12 million. The “X-Men” superhero movie “Logan,” which opened in early March, placed fifth after taking in more than $10 million. 

The new action comedy “CHiPs,” which is based off the 1970s TV show of the same name, opened in seventh place, grossing more than $7 million in its opening weekend. 

A movie placing first at the box office two weeks in a row, as “Beauty and the Beast” has done, is a relatively common feat now, but data shows that a movie ruling over the box office for months is a feat that was much easier to achieve in decades past. Movies like “Tootsie,” “Titanic,” “Home Alone,” and “Back to the Future” were all able to achieve double-digit weeks of placing No. 1. The only movie to stay at No. 1 for more than four weeks since 2000, according to the website Box Office Mojo, is “Avatar.” 

“['Home Alone'] ended up being No. 1 weekend after weekend after weekend,” secure in the No. 1 spot for 12 weeks, director Christopher Columbus remembered in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2015. “Which doesn’t happen anymore.” 

Why doesn’t a movie stay at No. 1 for weeks on end now? Hollywood Reporter writer Pamela McClintock noted at the end of summer 2016 that the gross of many movies during that season plummeted during their second weekend and Jeff Bock, a box office analyst, told the Hollywood Reporter that part of the reason is there is so much competition. 

“Studios spend so much time and effort getting the word out for opening weekend that business plateaus and it simply cannot sustain itself in the weeks that follow," Mr. Bock said. "Why? Every weekend, especially in the summer, there's a new 'event' populating theaters.” 

And so putting a movie in what was previously seen as a “slower” month – the March month for “Beauty and the Beast” definitely counts as that – can benefit a movie. The film “The Martian” came in at No. 1 at the box office for four weekends after opening in early October 2015. Deadline writer Anthony D’Alessandro attributed some of the movie’s financial success to that less popular release date. “Fox saw that they had the goods with ‘Martian’ and moved it away from its original Thanksgiving launch date...,” Mr. D’Alessandro wrote at the time. “By flipping ‘Martian’ to the first weekend in October, Fox has the entire month to itself before Sony’s ‘Spectre’ shows up on November 6.”

With the expansion of blockbusters to other months besides the summer and the November-December period, however, opening in a quieter month may not be such a unique solution anymore. While “Beauty and the Beast” has triumphed, it wasn’t the only blockbuster hopeful to open in March – far from it. David Sims of The Atlantic noted that the month also saw the opening of “Kong: Skull Island,” “Logan,” and “Power Rangers,” with “Ghost in the Shell” set to debut on March 31. 

“Now, as franchise films like Logan clean up at the box office, it’s clear that the summer now begins in March...,” Mr. Sims wrote on March 13.

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