UPDATE: The situation surrounding the shelving of Beauty And The Beast in Malaysia has become somewhat clearer. Earlier this week, the movie was approved by the local censors with what was characterized as “a minor cut involving a gay moment.” But its release was then postponed pending an “internal review,” the Mouse’s Malaysian office said on Tuesday. The censor board’s chief told press he did not know why. Now in a statement released to Bloomberg, Disney confirmed, “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia.”
With Disney refusing cuts, it puts the studio in a standoff with the censors in a country where sex between men is illegal. On screen, gay characters are allowed to be depicted, but only if they show repentance or are portrayed in a negative light. The stance comes amid growing determination of multinational groups to resist intolerant rules in markets where they do business, the Financial Times notes.
If the movie forgoes a Malaysian release entirely, which is still to be determined, it is not expected to greatly impact box office. As noted below, Malaysia is a growing market, but the average gross of BATB comps Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book is $5.5M there. The live-action remake of BATB is eyeing a $215M-$245M global opening this weekend.
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY: Disney’s Beauty And The Beast won’t be setting the table for guests in Malaysia this weekend with the release of the highly-anticipated film now said postponed despite approval by local authorities.
The Associated Press reports that the majority Muslim country’s Censorship Board said it had okayed the live-action update on Disney’s own 1991 classic with what Chairman Abdul Halim characterized as “a minor cut involving a gay moment.” The movie was then given a PG-13 rating (it’s PG in the States), but was postponed pending an “internal review,” the Mouse’s Malaysian office told local paper The Star. Halim told the AP he did not know why the film had been pulled.
Malaysia’s Golden Screen Cinemas says on its website: “Please be informed that the release date for Beauty And The Beast has been postponed by Disney until further notice. GSC will be conducting a refund for customers who have purchased BATB tickets.” Deadline has reached out to Disney for comment.
This is the third recent instance of the Emma Watson/Dan Stevens-starring musical fairy tale coming up against upset over Josh Gad’s portrayal of LeFou as smitten with the handsome cad Gaston (Luke Evans). A Christian-owned drive-in theater in Alabama said earlier this month that it would not show the movie. Russia then slapped it with a 16+ certificate, a higher rating than films for kids and families typically receive. That followed speculation that the movie could have been banned under Russia’s anti-“gay propaganda” law.
Is any of this going to have a big impact on Beauty And The Beast’s box office? Not much. The Alabama cinema is a second-run venue in a town with a population of about 36,000. Russia is not a major market for this sort of fare, although 2015’s Cinderella made about $11.5M there. BATB is expected to huge with kids and females, but it’s also poised to play across all demos meaning the over-16s in Russia should come out for it.
In Malaysia, a market that has grown in recent years, the average box office of BATB comps Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book is $5.5M.
Per the AP, censors in Malaysia relaxed restrictions on sexual and religious content back in 2010. Gay characters are allowed to be depicted, but only if they show repentance or are portrayed in a negative light.
BATB begins international rollout on Thursday in such majors as Germany, Italy and Mexico. On Friday, it adds the UK and China notably, alongside the U.S. We’ll be tracking box office numbers throughout the weekend.