‘Beauty and the Beast’ re­make roars to historic $170 mil­lion de­but

Austin American-Statesman - - THE PLANNER - By Tre’vell An­der­son Los An­ge­les Times

Dis­ney’s “Beauty and the Beast” brought so many guests to movie the­aters over the week­end that the live-ac­tion re­make be­came the big­gest box-of­fice opener so far of the year, and the sev­enth-best de­but of all time.

The film brought in an im­pres­sive $170 mil­lion, well above an­a­lyst ex­pec­ta­tions of $130 mil­lion to $150 mil­lion. It’s the high­est do­mes­tic de­but ever for a Dis­ney live­ac­tion ti­tle and the sev­enth Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios re­lease to open at more than $150 mil­lion. The pic­ture also brought in $180 mil­lion in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble. It’s amaz­ing,” said Dave Hol­lis, the stu­dio’s dis­tri- bu­tion chief. “There are al­most no words to fully cap­ture how grat­i­fy­ing it is to see a re­sult like this from a team that has been work­ing on telling sto­ries like this for years.”

The pic­ture, which cost $160 mil­lion to make, stars Emma Wat­son of the “Harry Potter” fran­chise as Belle and Dan Stevens (“Down­ton Abbey”) as the cursed prince. The story stays fairly close to the beloved 1991 an­ima tedo rig­i­nal, a box-of­fice smash that be­came the first an­i­mated movie to earn a best pic­ture Os­car nom­i­na­tion. Directed by Bill Con­don, known for “The Twi­light Saga” and the mu­si­cal “Dream­girls,” the new film is well on its way to fol­low­ing in its pre­de­ces­sor’s his­tory-mak­ing foot­steps.

“Be auty a nd the Beast” is ex­pected to reach the cov­eted $1 bil­lion mark in global re­ceipts be­fore the end of its the­atri­cal run.

Disne yh a sbuil­tas uc­cess­ful busi­ness out of turn­ing its old car­toons into live-ac­tion spec­ta­cles with “Malef­i­cent,” “Cin­derella” and “The Jun­gle Book.” The Bur­bank stu­dio is n owwo rk­ing on re­makes of “Dumbo” and “Mu­lan.” Dust­ing off the oldies can be tough, but tech­nol­ogy has be­come so ad­vanced that live-ac­tion ver­sions ca n do the orig­i­nals jus­tice in the eyes of some film­go­ers and crit­ics.

Such tech­nol­ogy has helped cat­a­pult “Beauty” into IMAX his­tory books. The film g ot $21 mil­lion of its world­wide gross from IMAX, a record for a PG-rated movie, sur­pass­ing “Jun­gle Book’s” $20 mil­lion.

“Beauty” re­ceivedan A Cine­mas­core from au­di­ence mem­bers (60 per­cent fe­male; 50 per­cent fam­i­lies) and a 71 per­cent pos­i­tive rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes. On­line ticket seller Fan­dango said the film is the best ad­vance-sell­ing fam­ily movie in the Los An­ge­les com­pany’s 17-year his­tory.

De­spi te the pic­ture’s mas­sive pos­i­tive re­cep­tion, it did de­but to some con­tro­versy. The ad­di­tion ofaminorsto­ryl ine fea­tur­ing the com­pany’s first openl yga y char­ac­ter ruf­fled some feath­ers: An Alabama the­ater won’t show the film, Rus­sia banned kids younger than 16 from see­ing it and Malaysian censors re­queste d the scene be re­moved. (Dis­ney re­fused.)

Still, the pic­ture has all the mak­ings of a hit that will con­tinue to dom­i­nate the box of­fice in the weeks to come. With the mas­sive re­cent suc­cess of “La La La nd”(morethan $417 mil­lion in world­wide sales), it p rovesthat es­capist song-and-dance fan­tasy still sells, even in coun­tries that haven’t tra­di­tion­ally re­sponded to the for­mat.

Ad­di­tion­ally, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of “Frozen,” the hope is that the “Beauty and the Beast’s” clas­sic songs will help drive re­peat busi­ness, the wa yt unes such as “Let It Go” did f or t he com­puter-an­i­mated mu­si­cal in late 2013.

Land­ing in se­cond place in its se­cond week was Warner Bros.’ “Kong: Skull Is­land” with $28.9 mil­lion. The film has pulled in $110.1 mil­lion to date. Fox’s “Lo­gan” took third place in its third week. The lat­est in the X-Men fran­chise added $17. 5 mil­lion, for a do­mes­tic gross of $184 mil­lion.

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