The Shoe Fits! 'Cinderella' Captures Box Office Title as $70 Million Debut Marks Highest Opening For Director Kenneth Branagh

Daily Mail, 16 March 201
By Paul Chavez

'Cinderella' waltzed its way to the top of the box office with an estimated weekend haul of $70.1 million.

The film starring English actress Lily James, 25, marked the highest opening ever for 54-year -old director Kenneth Branagh, according to an article on Sunday by The Hollywood Reporter.

'Cinderella' also found success internationally as it made $62.4 million overseas including $25 million in China, which was a record for a March opening there.

Branagh's other directing credits include 1989's 'Henry V', 2011's 'Thor' and 2014's 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'.

The $95 million live-action fantasy was boosted by a 'Frozen' short titled 'Frozen Fever' that played before the feature film. Disney's box-office surge has been propelled partly by the so-called 'halo effect' of 'Frozen' - a sequel to which Disney announced last week.

But it's also been driven by the appeal of seeing Disney cartoon classics turned into live-action fantasies. 'Cinderella' follows previous live-action hits like 'Maleficent' [whose May 2014 debut of $69.4 million 'Cinderella' narrowly bested] and 'Alice In Wonderland'.

The holiday release 'Into The Woods', from the Stephen Sondheim musical, added to the live- action trend, and many more are on the way. 'The Jungle Book', 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Dumbo' are all coming in live action, as is a sequel to 'Alice In Wonderland'.

Disney has also found big profits in capitalizing on female moviegoers, who made up the largest chunk of 'Frozen' and 'Maleficent' fans. The audience for 'Cinderella' was 66 percent female, Disney said.

'There is seemingly a lot of appetite for these stories to be told, I think, in part because many of them have a female protagonist and we've seen there's significant box-office success that can come by featuring female-driven stories,' said Dave Hollis, head of distribution at Disney.

''Frozen' Fever was certainly part of why we're seeing the kind of success that we did this weekend,' Hollis said. 'In and of itself, 'Cinderella' is absolutely a great stand-alone experience. But it ends up being a one-plus-one-equals-three thing for the consumer.'

Disney could also celebrate 'Big Hero 6' becoming the top-grossing worldwide animated release of 2014; the Oscar-winner has made $633 million globally.

With Disney's high-priced but lucrative ownership of Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, the studio will be flexing its strength throughout 2015 with releases like 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron', 'Inside Out' and 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'.

'Disney is just a well-oiled machine that is firing on all cylinders right now,' says Paul Dergarbedian, senior media analyst for box-office data firm Rentrak. 'It's about this Disney umbrella which encompasses these incredible crown jewel brands they have. 'Cinderella' is just the latest example.'

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