She might be a funny girl, that Belle in her French village, but on the global stage this weekend, she’s poised to be a very rich, glamorous one. Disney’s Beauty And The Beast is set to twirl up a worldwide opening between $215 million-$245 million, outflanking the global debuts of previous March releases including The Hunger Games ($211.8M) and Alice In Wonderland ($210.1M).
Overall, the property comes with built-in nostalgia and has cross-generational appeal, with parents who saw the 1991 Oscar-winning animated film as kids expected to take their own families to see this one.
In addition, Emma Watson, who reportedly passed over Oscar winner La La Land to play Belle, is pulling in her massive global fanbase which on social media numbers 82M thanks in large part to the Harry Potter movies. Watson represents female empowerment at a time when the world is calling for more role models for girls. There also hasn’t been much family fare this year, particularly for girls – although Moana is crossing $600M worldwide this week after a terrific final debut in Japan last frame. The Lego Batman Movie is the last big film in offshore markets to play to kids. Belle and her Beast/Prince have the next several weeks to themselves in the genre with no massive global title on deck until Easter and The Fate Of The Furious. There are also intermittent half-terms for school kids in some markets coming up.
Ever since Beauty And The Beast came on tracking she’s been destined for greatness, with current U.S./Canada projections between $120M-$130M at 4,210 theaters. Fandango reports this morning that the title set a record as the biggest family movie pre-seller in the company’s 17-year history, already outselling the likes of Disney’s big pics last summer, Finding Dory ($135M opening) and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M).
Should Beauty And The Beast clear $166M stateside, it will beat Warner Bros’ Batman V. Superman, which has been the top March opener of all-time since last year; again, given where Belle is on tracking, it would come as no surprise should she reach such heights. While the movie will surely send a stampeded of females to the multiplex, Fandango reports that 44% plan to see the Bill Condon-directed Disney live-action fairy tale with their families, while 43% will see the film with a date, significant other or friend. While there will be a female skew stateside, it’s expected to be more balanced than say a Twilight movie which can pull in 70% women. There are guys who certainly want to watch Belle and her hairy prince.
On Friday, the marketplace will have the advantage of 26% K-12 schools off and 39% colleges — the highest amount for a spring break this March, with the next biggest break being Good Friday, April 14, with 74% K-12 off and 29% colleges according to ComScore. That’s when Universal’s Fate Of The Furious starts its engines. As far as pricing, Beauty And The Beast will have the perks of 500 PLF locations, 400 Imax stateside, and 200 D-box, with over 80% of its theater count being repped by 3D. Each exhibition circuit is doing a different type of promotion to celebrate the event film. Some are giving out posters, others keepsake tickets. Previews kick off Thursday at 6 PM for the uber-fans at PLF, XD and Imax locales, while regular showtimes commence at 7 PM.
As of right now, Beauty and The Beast isn’t expected to ding business for the testosterone films as much as originally thought: WB/Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island is expected to decline by 55% for $27.5M in its second outing, and 20th Century Fox’s Logan will slow by 40% in its third weekend for $22.9M.
BH Tilt and Orion Pictures have the indie horror film The Belko Experiment, directed by Greg McLean and written by Guardians Of The Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn, which will hit north of 1,250 locations. These films aim to precisely target genre fans. The pic, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, is poised to pull in around $3.5M.
Belle begins her offshore rollout on Thursday, landing in about 65%-70% of the international footprint through Friday. Key markets bowing are the UK, Brazil, Korea, Italy, Germany, Russia, Spain, Mexico and China. Not entering the picture until the following week is France, where there is an annual reduced-price ticket promotion going on. Estimates on the international opening are coming in from $95M-$115M.
She’ll be Imax’s guest on 654 screens in 55 markets, 390 of those booked in China.
In regards to foreign comps, the clearest are other recent Disney live-action pics: Maleficent bowed to
$88M $91M in May 2014, Cinderella waltzed to $72M $73M in March 2015, and The Jungle Book swung with $130M $134M in April last year. That’s in the same bucket of markets and at today’s exchange rates. Averaging those out, the opening comes to about $97M $99M.
Maleficent ended up at $517M international with Japan, China and Mexico the top markets. Cinderella slipped into $342M as China, Japan and the UK spent the most money at the ball. The Jungle Book kaa-chinged $603M led by China, the UK and India. For reference, 1991’s animated classic grossed $206M overseas.
The tale as old as time is expected to resonate around the world, even despite controversy that’s reared up over Josh Gad’s “gay moment” in the film. Russia has slapped it with a 16+ certificate, a higher rating than films for kids and families typically receive. Ninety-five percent of those in the faith-driven consumer group, which touts that it reps 41M, say they’ve cancelled plans to see the film due to Gad’s character. Still, many tracking folks don’t feel that’s bound to hurt business anyway, but we hear this wasn’t expected to be a huge market anyway. The Pirates films also notched similar ratings, and Beauty And The Beast is poised to play across all demos meaning the over-16s in Russia should come out for it.
In Malaysia, the film’s release has been postponed despite what the local authorities say was a PG-13 rating assigned it after that “gay moment” was cut. The average box office of Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book there is $5.5M.
China, as ever, remains a wild card. Disney had success in the past year in the Middle Kingdom and saw massive returns on Zootopia and Jungle Book. Thus far, response to materials has been encouraging, but there is a lower familiarity with the property in the PROC than elsewhere. Musicals don’t tend to over-index in China, although La La Land and Sing have recently had strong runs. The former highlighted the romance aspect of the movie.
The cast has been to Paris and London among others while Watson, Gad, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans traveled to Shanghai to promote the film at the Disney Resort. A Chinese version of the theme song has also been released, sung by Monster Hunt star Jing Boran and Tian Fuzhen.