The two Emmas – Watson and Thompson – don’t hurt either
“Beauty and the Beast” was the Belle of the box office, raking in $170 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, and an extra $180 million overseas.
Disney’s monster hit is now the seventh-biggest movie opening of all time. In fact, the live action remake reeled in more money from Thursday through Sunday than the animated 1991 original did during its entire theatrical run.
Syracuse University professor and pop cultural historian Robert Thompson tells Moneyish what made “Beauty and the Beast” such a fairy tale success
- It’s a tale as old as time. We’re nuts about nostalgia – that’s why franchises like “Star Wars” and “Rocky” and “The Fast and the Furious” keep going and going. And Disney’s original “Beauty and the Beast” was one of the centerpieces of the Mickey Mouse company’s 1990s renaissance. A generation of girls grew up on Belle’s empowered princess, and now they’re introducing her to their own kids. “It’s had 25 years to build up cultural equity,” said Thompson. “It was a Broadway musical. The songs have become standards. The way was well cleared for this to become a huge hit.”
- The cast is enchanting. The all-star lineup, including “Harry Potter’s” Emma Watson as Belle, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, played a big part in drawing audiences to theaters. And Watson, who will always be Hermione Granger in our hearts, is having a moment right now as a feminist icon. “She’s got a huge fan base,” said Thompson. “A lot of people would pay to go see anything Emma Watson was in, even if they’d never heard of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”
- Timing is everything. This weekend’s other openings included indie sequel “T2: Trainspotting,” or ticket buyers could catch week-old action movies “Logan” and “Kong: Skull Island.” Sorry, but these other flicks just couldn’t hold a candelabra to an enchanted castle of singing and dancing furniture. “And it’s a movie for the whole family that’s not going up against a lot of other family-friendly movies right now,” said Thompson, “and the family movie is still a lucrative market. Look at ‘Moana,’” which made more than $600 million worldwide this winter.
- The buildup was brilliant. Disney’s 90-second teaser trailer last May broke viewing records, with just a peek of Watson’s Belle eyeing an enchanted rose scoring 92 million views in 24 hours online. And a last-minute controversy about gay side character LeFou having the hots for the villain Gaston created buzz that money can’t buy. “Disney does marketing the way the Egyptians built pyramids,” said Thompson.
- It’s actually a good movie. And a great story. The initial reviews have been mostly positive, and the filmmakers had strong source material to work with. After all, Disney’s 1991 version became the first animated feature nominated for an Academy Award. And the timeless lesson that beauty is only skin deep resonates with our selfie-obsessed society today. “Let’s face it: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was remade 15,000 times before Disney’s movie in the 90s. It’s the kind of story that we retell so many times that it becomes canon,” said Thompson. “And we can remake these kinds of stories every generation to reflect new sensibilities. Just wait until we’re talking about the live-action version of ‘Frozen.’”
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