6:38 PM PDT 3/19/2017 by Patrick Brzeski
Disney's Beauty and the Beast waltzed into the Middle Kingdom to a rousing $44.8 million over the weekend.
Bill Condon's live-action update of the classic 1991 animated musical opened to $12.1 million Friday with just under 100,000 showings, before climbing to $18.5 million Saturday (102,700 showings) and $11.8 million Sunday (100,856 showings), according to local box-office tracker Ent Group. (Ent Group's weekend total was slightly under Disney's, at $42.6 million.)
In North America, the film opened to a huge $170 million for a $350 million global bow. In China, the film also pulled in $3.4 million from 386 Imax screens.
Disney's local marketing campaign for the film included a music video featuring local heartthrob Jing Boran (Monster Hunt) waltzing with Taiwanese pop singer Hebe Tien to a Chinese version of Alan Menken's original Beauty and the Beast theme song. Targeted at China's influential young female filmgoers — many of whom weren't yet born when the original animation came out — the song has been viewed nearly 12 million times since its release three weeks ago on Tencent Video.
Notably, China's censors left the film entirely untouched. In nearby Muslim-majority Malaysia, a state censorship board balked at what Condon has described as a three-second "gay moment" between male lead characters Gaston and his sidekick LeFou. After censors demanded the scene be cut, along with other material, Disney refused and delayed the film's local release by one week, giving the Malaysian authorities a chance to reconsider.
Although China has occasionally blocked gay-themed content from streaming video services, in this case, the authorities highlighted their tolerance. On Friday, The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, tweeted: "Controversial gay moment kept in Disney's #BeautyAndTheBeast. Movie premiered on Mar 17 in China, requires no guidance for minor audience."
Coming in second for the weekend, holdover A Dog's Purpose added $11.1 million for a $74.8 million 17-day total. The family film has been boosted by local studio Alibaba Pictures, which took a stake in producer Amblin Entertainment last year.
Meanwhile, Logan hit $100 million, adding $6 million in its third frame. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter came in fourth, earning another $2.6 million for a $160 million total after 24 days in China.
Legendary's Kong: Skull Island is expected to dominate screen shares when it lands in China on Friday.