Disney's Beauty could turn profit Beast
In an age of violent blockbusters, Disney’s live action remake of a classic love story is threatening to crush the competition.
Once upon a time, in a fairy tale land, negative advertising and minor tabloid controversies could have proved the secret ingredient to turn a fairly unexciting remake into a box office beast.
Disney’s upcoming live-action revamp of Beauty And The Beast has recently made headlines for featuring an “exclusively gay moment” – the first time in the studio’s nearly 100-year history.
On Tuesday, the company announced it was shelving the movie’s release in mainly Muslim Malaysia, without offering an explanation.
This would have constituted little surprise, given the country’s strict laws on homosexuality – for example, a movie can only depict gay characters if they later show repentance.
But, in this case, Malaysia’s Film Censhorship Board had already removed the controversial scene, allowing the rest of the movie to be screened.
Disney pulled out, which could suggest a political stand from the animation giant.
If a stand is what it is, it won’t be Disney’s first.
Belle, the lead character of the film, has been rewritten from its original form to portray a stronger, more independent woman.
Actress Emma Watson, a known advocate of the feminist cause, said she helped “invent a back story” for Belle.
“Which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead,” she said.
“So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor.”
So, yeah, they made Belle a feminist and Gaston’s manservant gay, thus securing a place in the pantheon of disruptive movies.
These bold moves may have frightened countries like Malaysia and Russia, but will have a much different effect in the West.
Early tracking suggests the movie could reach $ 120m (£99m) in its US opening weekend, stacking it up with the likes of the latest Hunger Games, the hugely successful Deadpool and the final Harry Potter.
Not bad for a movie short of significant star power, in a year filled with predominantly masculine blockbusters like Kong: Skull Island and Logan.
Especially not bad for a female-led musical, which the studios tend to see as niche and never expect to pass the $ 1bn mark worldwide – but this just might.
If it does, Disney will have Emma Watson to thank for.
The actress’ recent photo shoot for Vanity Fair made headlines all over the world, helping to promote the movie in the cheapest way possible.
The former Harry Potter star and current UN Women ambassador was criticised for supposedly posing “topless” for the magazine.
Called a “hypocrite” for raving about feminism and then “selling her body”.
The actress defended herself, arguing she didn’t understand what her “tits had to do with feminism”.
The discussion lingered online, as it does, boosting Belle’s feminist topic and Disney’s progressive stance.
Then came news that Watson had also turned down a role in the Oscar-winning movie La La Land to concentrate on Belle’s character, arguably losing an award opportunity to Emma Stone.
It’s fair to say that all this buzz has saved Disney millions in advertising, and helped boost a classic love story to the level of more aggressive blockbusters.
And though it may be soon to say if this signals any significant shift in audience interest – who knows, movie goers may just start choosing beauty over beasts.
Beauty And The Beast opens in UK theatres 17 March.