AS I SAT watching “Beauty and the Beast” in a packed theater over the weekend with transfixed fans of all ages, one thought kept recurring: How soon till Disney begins offering a direct-deposit service for our paychecks?
Seven years into its current system of rolling out live-action adaptations of its animated classics, Disney has the machinery in place to crank out these eminently bankable conversions at an accelerated pace.
The latest success story is now “Beauty and the Beast,” which grossed a head-turning $170 million in its domestic debut, according to studio estimates Sunday; final numbers are due Monday afternoon.
That represents the seventh-biggest opening ever when not adjusting for inflation, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Counting its Star Wars and Marvel Studios films, Disney now owns six of the seven largest-ever domestic debuts.
That total also represents the biggest March opening ever, topping last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” ($166 million).
Disney kicked off this entire template in 2010 with another live-action adapted film that pointed to the high profitability of March: “Alice in Wonderland,” which opened to $116.1 million.
Tim Burton’s “Alice” went on to gross $1.025 billion worldwide. The film’s success prompted Disney to open its cartoon vaults wide for live-action adaptations and reimaginings, including “Maleficent” ($759 million worldwide), “Cinderella” ($544 million worldwide) and last year’s “The Jungle Book,” which not only had a massive $967 million global gross, but also featured Oscar-winning CGI effects that pushed the creative envelope.
“Beauty and the Beast” — adapted from the 1991 animated classic that boasts Oscar-winning music — has already grossed $350 million worldwide on a $160 million production budget.
(It’s worth noting that, when adjusted for inflation, the 1991 “Beauty” grossed $392 million domestically.)
The new “Beauty’s” box-office reception should only boost Disney’s confidence as it plans to release adaptations of such animated smashes as “Dumbo” (now in pre-production with Tim Burton back at the helm), “The Lion King” (with “Jungle Book’s” Jon Favreau directing) and “Mulan” (Niki Caro directing). A new take on “Aladdin” has been in the pipeline, while freshly minted Oscar winner Emma Stone is aboard “Cruella” for a 2018 release.
As long as Disney is minting our childhoods and cashing in on the next generations, too, should we let the studio just go ahead and funnel our money directly?
Be our guest.