Weekend Box Office: Cinderella Dazzles In Debut

Disney’s live-action version of Cinderella was the belle of the North American multiplex ball this weekend while the latest Liam Neeson action flick Run All Night jogged its way to a weak second place finish. Thanks to the arrival of the Disney hit, the box office was up a huge 63% from last weekend and a healthy 20% from last year at this time. Business should continue to excel over the next couple of weeks with next Friday’s arrival of the Divergent sequel Insurgent and Fast and Furious 7 two weeks after that.

For the third time in the past five years, the Mouse House has opened a fantasy feature in the month of March to summertime-like numbers. The trend began in 2010 with Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, which earned a whopping $116 million and finished domestically with $331 million. 2013’s Oz: The Great and Powerful arrived on the scene with $79 million en route to a $234 million final payday. Both were big hits overseas.

This year, it’s Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella that is making the big bucks. The critically praised family feature opened on 3,845 screens where it earned an estimated $70 million. The $18,219 per screen average for the film is particularly impressive given the fact that the movie does not have the benefit of higher priced 3D showings. The film opened day and date in 60 foreign markets, contributed an additional $62.4 million to the overall total. A whopping $25 million of that total came from China.

Cinderella’s big opening is also the latest in a series of live-action Disney flicks that is based on one of their beloved “Disney Princess” properties. In addition to Alice, Disney mined gold last year with its new take on Sleeping Beauty, the Angelina Jolie blockbuster Maleficent. That film opened in late May with $69 million and powered its way to a huge $241 million domestically. The studio already has a live-action version of its 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast in the works for a 2016 release with Emma Watson in the lead role.

Cinderella has a few additional things going for it that Alice, Oz and Maleficent did not. The production budget for the Branagh feature was $95 million, far below the $175 – $215 million spent on the others. With no big marquee names like Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie attached to this project –Lily James, Richard Madden and Cate Blanchett headline Cinderella-, Disney should score a bigger share of the box office gross.

Critical support was also stronger for this film, which could attract viewers who may have been on the fence about seeing this in the theater. Cinderella scored an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes whereas the others notched numbers below 60%. Finally, it didn’t hurt to have the seven-minute animated short Frozen Fever playing prior to the start of Cinderella, an aspect that was marketed by Disney almost as much as the main feature.

Liam Neeson recently announced that he would be retiring as an action film star within a couple of years. Given the weak opening for his second action film so far this year, Warner’s Run All Night, he may want to put away his gun sooner rather than later. Mixed reviews for the Jaume Collet-Serra shoot ‘em up and an ad campaign that offered up far more déjà vu than it did viewing enticement couldn’t get Run past the $11 million mark on 3,171 screens.

Run All Night is the fourth action film that Neeson has headlined within the past thirteen months, the other three being Non-Stop –which was directed by Collet-Serra-, A Walk Among the Tombstones and this past January’s Taken 3. The opening for Run All Night is the lowest opening for Neeson since he began using his special set of skills to reinvent his career seven years ago with the original Taken.

Climbing up one spot to third place was Fox’s durable hit Kingsman: The Secret Service with an estimated $6.2 million from 2,635 theaters. Off 25%, the Matthew Vaughn hit has now bagged $107.3 million in the past five weeks. The movie should be able to tough it out for a few more weeks until Fast and Furious 7 arrives on the scene. By that point, Kingsman may reach the $130 million mark in North America.

Dropping two spots to land in fourth was Warner’s Will Smith flick Focus with $5.8 million 2,855 screens. Off 42% from the week before, the con comedy has earned a mild $44 million so far and might wind down with roughly $55 million. Foreign totals currently stand at $37 million.

Rounding out the top five was last week’s number one film, the critically panned sci-fi flick Chappie, also with an estimated $5.8 million from 3,201 theaters. Off a steep 56%, Chappie has earned a dismal $23 million after two weeks of release and will be lucky to make $35 million domestically before heading off to home video at the start of June.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

  1. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox) $5.7 million (-33%); $18 million
  1. The SpongeBob Movie (Paramount) $4.1 million (-38%); $154.6 million
  1. McFarland, USA (Disney) $3.6 million (-29%); $35 million
  1. American Sniper (Warner) $2.93 million (-33%); $341 million
  1. The DUFF (Lionsgate) $2.9 million (-39%); $30 million

In addition to the debut of Insurgent, which will give Cinderella a run for the number one spot, next weekend will see the arrival of the Sean Penn feature The Gunman.

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