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‘Beauty and the Beast’ smashes box office records

Mar 21,2017
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Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, dominated both Korea and North America’s weekend box office. [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]
The three most popular films in both Korea and North America over the weekend were “Beauty and the Beast,” “Kong: Skull Island” and “Logan.”

Disney’s live-action “Beauty” was a beast at the weekend box office in Korea, accounting for 66.9 percent of ticket sales from Friday to Sunday.

The film, starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, opened with 1.40 million tickets over the weekend, adding up to a total of 1.57 million admissions domestically since it opened on Thursday. Director Bill Condon’s film has so far raked in 13.3 billion won ($11.7 million) locally.

“Beauty” opened with an estimated $170 million in North American ticket sales and blew past the previous record-holder for G- or PG-rated releases, according to studio estimates. Last year, Disney’s “Finding Dory” debuted with a then-PG-best $135 million.

“Beauty and the Beast” felled many other records, too. It’s the year’s top opening so far and a new best for March releases, and it ranks seventh all-time, not accounting for inflation.

The film, made for about $160 million, is the latest effort by Disney to re-create one of its animated classics with live action and digital effects. The makeover of the 1991 Oscar-winning film follows previous live-action remakes such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Maleficent” and last year’s “The Jungle Book.” Many more are on the way, too, including those for “Dumbo,” “Mulan,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”

“Nostalgia is a very powerful driver for these films,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “What’s exciting here is there is an opportunity to see these beloved stories in a way that’s never been seen before, but you get to build that on the foundation of something that’s very familiar.

“But you don’t get to $170 million because of nostalgia,” Hollis added. “You have to ultimately make these movies great.”

“Beauty” found widespread acclaim and some backlash for including what has been called Disney’s first openly gay character. Josh Gad plays Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, who has a very brief “exclusively gay moment,” as Condon described it, late in the film.

Though many applauded the character’s subtle twist as overdue progress, some derided it. An Alabama drive-in theater canceled showings before owners screened the film. And after Malaysian censors required an edit of the scene, Disney pulled the film from release in the predominantly Muslim nation. An appeal is to be heard this week.

None of that dragged down the movie’s massive opening. It took in $180 million overseas, including $44.8 million in China, Disney said.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said any backlash may have only helped “Beauty and the Beast,” which he predicts will eventually top $1 billion globally.

“As quote-unquote controversies go, this was a real tempest in a teapot,” Dergarabedian said. “This obviously had zero impact on the movie. In fact, those who raise awareness of a movie for whatever reason are generally only helping that movie do better business. I don’t think that was going to dissuade anyone except the most narrow-minded from seeing this film.”

“Beauty and the Beast,” featuring the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, also got a boost from good word-of-mouth and largely good reviews. Other studios stayed clear of the Disney juggernaut.

Distant second was Warner Bros.’ “Kong: Skull Island.”

The film, which topped last weekend’s box office and stars Tom Hiddleston, slid to second place in Korea with 317,600 tickets in its second weekend, accounting for 14.8 percent of ticket sales. Since its launch on March 8, it has so far sold 1.55 tickets, earning 12.91 billion won in total.

In North America, the King Kong relaunch took in $28.9 million in its second week, and has thus far earned $110.1 million.

Fox’s R-rated “X-Men” spinoff “Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman, added 158,000 admissions in its third week to total 2.08 million. Jackman’s last feature as Wolverine has raked in 17.72 billion won thus far.

In North America, “Logan” added $17.5 million in its third week to bring its total to $184 million.

BY JIN MIN-JI, AP [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]