Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Fairy tale weekend for Disney

Published:Monday | March 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Lily James as Cinderella in Disney's live action feature film inspired by the classic fairy tale, Cinderella.


Let It Go may be Walt Disney's anthem these days, but Everything's Coming Up Roses might be the more accurate theme song for the Disney juggernaut.

Disney's recent streak continued over the weekend with the US$70.1-million North American debut of its traditional, sumptuously costumed fairy tale adaptation Cinderella, according to studio estimates yesterday. Interest in the film, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James of Downton Abbey, was boosted by a Frozen short, Frozen Fever, that played before the feature.

Disney's box office surge has been propelled partly by the so-called 'halo effect' of Frozen, a sequel to which Disney announced last week. But it's also been driven by the appeal of seeing Disney cartoon classics turned into live-action fantasies. Cinderella follows previous live-action hits like Maleficent (whose May 2014 debut of US$69.4 million Cinderella narrowly bested) and Alice in Wonderland.

The holiday release Into the Woods, from the Stephen Sondheim musical, added to the live action trend, and many more are on the way. The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo are all coming in live action, as is a sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

Disney has also found big profits in capitalising on female moviegoers, who made up the largest chunk of Frozen and Maleficent fans. The audience for Cinderella was 66 per cent female, Disney said.

Female-driven stories

"There is seemingly a lot of appetite for these stories to be told, I think, in part because many of them have a female protagonist and we've seen there's significant box-office success that can come by featuring female-driven stories," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution at Disney.

"Frozen Fever was certainly part of why we're seeing the kind of success that we did this weekend," Hollis said. "In and of itself, Cinderella is absolutely a great, stand-alone experience. But it ends up being a one-plus-one-equals-three thing for the consumer."

Last week's top film, the sci-fi thriller Chappie, from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, slid to fifth with US$5.8 million for Sony Pictures.

In limited release, the critically acclaimed independent horror film It Follows earned a robust US$163,000 on just four screens.

Following are estimated ticket sales for Friday through yesterday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Rentrak.

1. Cinderella, US$70.1m (US$62.4m international)

2. Run All Night, US$11m (US$6.6m international)

3. Kingsman: The Secret Service, US$6.2m (US$13.7m international)

4. Focus, US$5.8m (US$13.5m international)

5. Chappie, US$5.8m (US$13.6m international)

6. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, US$5.7m (US$4.1m international)

7. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, US$4.1m ($4.3m international)

8. McFarland, USA, US$3.7m

9. American Sniper, US$2.9m ($8 million international)

10. The DUFF, US$2.9m