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'Beauty and the Beast' smashes records with towering $170 million debut

20 March 2017, 07:26 | Winston Chapman

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

The film stars Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, as well as Luke Evans as Gaston, the narcissistic villain constantly after Belle's hand in marriage.

The actress, a six-time Tony Award victor, was just starting out when she auditioned for a minor part in the theatre adaptation of the hit animated movie musical - and she failed to catch the eye of Disney composer Alan Menken. The film has been biggest performer amongst the new releases of the week. It could well reach the $1 billion mark.

This is Walt Disney's fifth-biggest debut weekend of all time, with the Mouse House making up five of the top six debuts alongside Universal/Comcast Corp.'s Jurassic World ($208.8m two years ago). The studio is now working on remakes of Dumbo and Mulan.

Such technology has helped catapult Beauty into IMAX history books. That brought its global total for the weekend to $350 million.

Film site Fandango reported the movie had sold out at more than 1,000 showtimes in big cities and small, something more common for superhero blockbusters than for a family-oriented production.

Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" sequel, "T2: Trainspotting", from Sony Pictures debuted in five theaters in NY and Los Angeles, earning $180,000 for a strong per-theater average of $36,000.

The film has yet to open in France, Australia, and Japan. With the massive recent success of La La Land (more than US$417 million in worldwide sales), it proves that escapist song-and-dance fantasy still sells, even in countries that haven't traditionally responded to the format.

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Disney has proven once more that audiences have a thirst for live-action remakes of its animated classics.

In one weekend, it's notched up $350m, overtaking the likes of The LEGO Batman Movie, Kong: Skull Island and The Space Between Us. The film has pulled in US$110.1 million to date. With "Logan" in third place, the horror sensation "Get Out" slid to fourth and continued to drive audiences.

Disney's original prediction? A meagre $120 million.

Directed by Bill Condon, the film can expect to overtake the highest-grossing movie musical, 1978's Grease ($188 million lifetime gross) within days.

Watson brings Belle to life as a stronger, more intelligent and independent young woman than we've seen before.

After being overshadowed by a gay controversy during the past few weeks, the movie has easily exceeded box office predictions.

Its North American total now stands at $165.6 million on a $25 million budget.



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