This weekend, Walt Disney Pictures is looking to charm every mother and tot daughter, not just Stateside, but across the globe with its live-action adaptation of Cinderella. With the U.S. box office in a slump over the last two weeks amid a dearth of fresh PG and PG-13 fare, exhibitors’ cash registers are expected to ding loudly this frame as the first batch of kids gets off for spring break. Rentrak reports that 17% of all schools with K-12 will be out this Friday, while 27% colleges will be on break. The numbers will remain steady over the next few weekends with not only Cinderella, but also Lionsgate’s Insurgent, Warner Bros.’ Get Hard, and Universal’s Furious 7 reaping the spoils of teens and twentysomethings.
Cinderella is opening in 3,845 theaters Stateside Friday, 350 of which are Imax and another 300 premium large-format, but will get a leg-up with previews tomorrow night. Tracking shows a $50M-$60M domestic B.O. bow with the Kenneth Branagh-helmed film likely landing at $55M, per distrib sources. In addition to women, Disney is hoping to draw in couples and the dating crowd. Abroad, Cinderella is looking to charm another $50M-$60M in about 31 markets, roughly 60% of its international footprint.
While some male audiences might equate Cinderella to dental surgery, don’t worry there’s something for you this weekend too: Liam Neeson has another action film opening in the U.S. and Canada, the R-rated Run All Night, which is looking to make mid to high teens in 3,171 theaters. That FSS should be better than what his last non-Taken actioner opened to: the moody thriller A Walk Among The Tombstones ($12.8M opening, final cume $26.3M). Run All Night marks Neeson’s third outing with Spanish helmer Jaume Collet-Serra after last year’s Non-Stop (opening $28.9M, domestic cume $92.2M) and Unknown ($21.9M opening, $63.7M domestic cume). Previews happen Thursday night.
Meanwhile, last weekend’s champ , Chappie, from Sony/Media Rights Capital is expected to fall 60% in its second session from its $13.3M opening, per industry estimates. Fox Searchlight’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is moving from 1,573 venues to 2,019 and should gross between $5M-$6M in its second check-in.
Cinderella isn’t a carbon-copy of the Disney animated version, nor is it a film that offers a twist on a fairy tale à la the studio’s May 2014 hit Maleficent ($69.4M FSS, total domestic cume: $241.4M) which told the story of the vengeful Sleeping Beauty black fairy. This film explores intrinsically the motives of the wicked stepmother, while opening up the classic fairy tale with lush exteriors and glamorous interiors.
This weekend, the live-action take on the classic hits such major markets as China, Russia, Mexico, Italy and Germany, and the following weekend will add about 5%-6% to the offshore footprint, notably with Korea bowing. France, Brazil, Australia and Spain debut the same week as the UK on March 27 in order to capitalize on the pre-Easter holiday and avoid competition such as Insurgent. (London is clearly looking forward to the bow — the windows at Harrod’s are already Cinderella-themed.)
The talent has been tirelessly promoting the film internationally, kicking off with a glitzy premiere in Berlin — and a pop-up Cinderella exhibit. Branagh attended with Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helen Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgård and costume designer Sandy Powell. The following week, James, Madden and Branagh headed to Russia for a special Moscow screening before similarly traveling to Milan and back to Los Angeles. James and Madden were also present at the Mexico City premiere on March 5.
The group did not go to China, but numbers there are expected to be princely. The film will take advantage of the White Day holiday, a sort of reverse Valentine’s Day when men give women sweets. “We plan to be No. 1 and 2 in China,” says Disney’s EVP of theatrical distribution and sales Dave Hollis, referring to Cinderella and Big Hero 6. Cinderella is being marketed to the traditional female audience but also to couples and families. “More Disney is more; it continues evolving the brand halo.” Big Hero 6 has had encouraging midweek numbers after adding about $16M last frame — it had a cume of $41M in the Middle Kingdom through Sunday.
As for overseas comps to Cinderella, Maleficent ($517M overseas, $758.4M worldwide) might look ideal, but it should be remembered that it had the Angelina Jolie factor. Oz, The Great And Powerful, which opened in this same session in 2013 in 46 markets (but not China), is one to consider. That movie did $69M to start. Still, because everything keeps getting bigger in China — and for argument’s sake — Maleficent opened there at $22M last June. Cinderella has an essentially open field this week with only a Korean drama and a local thriller in new plays.
Cinderella won’t hit Japan until late April. That market proved huge of course for Frozen ($250M+) and it is the top ex-U.S. play for Big Hero 6 ($75M). Maleficent opened there in July last year and was the film to topple Frozen from its long-running No. 1 perch, ultimately taking more than $60M locally.