Disney's Cinderella Story: Live-Action Thrives

“Belle of the Ball.” “The Shoe Fits.” “Happily Ever After.” “Bippity Boppity Boom.” Scan the morning headlines and you’ll find just about every applicable cliché in the media kingdom applied to Kenneth Branagh’s new live-action version of “Cinderella” for Disney. It took the weekend with $70.1 million in domestic ticket sales, according to preliminary figures, raking in an additional $62.4 million overseas, including $25 million in China.

“Females have once again flexed their might at the box office,” writes Pamela McClintock for the Hollywood Reporter, pointing out that Hollywood’s last live-action retelling of a classic, last year’s “Maleficent” starring Angelina Jolie, has grossed $758.4 million.



“The fact that ‘Cinderella’ appears to have bested ‘Maleficent’s’ $69.4 million domestic debut to nab one of the best showings ever for the month of March is all the more impressive considering its leading lady, ‘Downton Abbey’'s Lily James, isn't a known quantity. Nor is ‘Cinderella’ in 3D, as was ‘Maleficent.’”

McClintock also reports that more males attended on Saturday and Sunday (66%) than on Friday (77%), suggesting that the power of persuasion is holding up in American households.

“Disney’s executive vice president of distribution said he hopes the audience will continue to become more diverse in the coming days and weeks, which could prove critical to the movie’s long-term success as Friday’s ‘The Divergent Series: Insurgent,’ from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., is expected to draw a large female crowd,” reports the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Fritz.

Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis “says ‘Cinderella’’s success boiled down to ‘the production and marketing components at Disney. The key to adapting a beloved property remains its sense of originality. In this instance you have a compelling story with a strong, contemporary female protagonist. It’s the live version of a classic you think you know,” writes Anthony D'Alessandro for Deadline.com. 

“It’s all part of a bigger, broader strategy to bring these stories to life in unique and extraordinary ways,” Hollis tellsVariety’s Brent Lang. “There are two paths we’ve been taking lately. It’s either, ‘How do you tell a story you love in brand new ways,’ as we did with ‘Maleficent’ or ‘Oz,’ or ‘How do we make the quintessential live-action version as we did with ‘Cinderella’?”

Down the latter path, live-action versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Dumbo” and “The Jungle Book” are in the planning stages, Lang reports.

The Cinderella story is, of course, one of the oldest stories in the … well, the scrolls. 

“The first recorded story featuring a Cinderella-like figure dates to Greece in the sixth century BCE,’ writes Kelsey McKinney on Vox. Then there’s “the ninth-century Chinese fairy tale Ye Xian, in which a young girl named Ye Xian is granted one wish from some magical fish bones, which she uses to create a gown in the hopes of finding a husband.” 

But any culture would be pressed to top the 500 or so versions of the story extant in Europe, including the Frenchman Charles Perrault’s riff on the 17th century Italian Cenerentola that has glass slippers, pumpkins fairy godmothers and is the basis for the Disney tale in all its permutations.

In this particular one, there is some star power. “After Cinderella’s father dies, her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) treats her like a servant, and a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) steps in to help change her luck and get her to the royal ball, where Prince Charming (Richard Madden) awaits,” as Saba Hamedy writes in the Los Angeles Times

Cinderella garnered an A from audiences tracked by CinemaScore and scored 84% on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer (critics) with an 88% positive rating from audiences.

“The film benefited from great reviews, a terrific marketing campaign and the draw of the seven-minute computer-animated short, called ‘Frozen Fever,’” Rentrak analyst Paul Dergarabedian tells Bloomberg’s Anousha Sakoui, who reports that the short, based on the 2014 Disney Oscar winner ‘Frozen,’ was shown at ‘Cinderella’ screenings.

“A full 31% of those showing up were under the age of 12,” reports THR’s McClintock. “On the other end of the spectrum, 9% were 50 and older.”

“There is no such thing as a children’s movie,” asserts Kristen Page-Kirby in the Washington Post. “Sure, there are certainly films (and TV shows and clothing and food and toys) that appeal primarily to kids, but the dividing line between stuff for children and stuff for adults is mostly one of marketing.” 

The point that the movie drives home time and again — “because kids won’t listen to anything if you say it only once for the love of God if I have to tell you one more time …” — “is ‘have courage, and be kind.’” 

And then measure the results, right?

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