A scene from Beauty and the Beast. Photo: YouTube trailer
A scene from Beauty and the Beast. Photo: YouTube trailer

The live action version of Beauty and the Beast may have been breaking box office records around the world, but Disney wasn’t having it all their own way in Asia.

With the characteristic late releases in Japan over marketing and piracy fears, the live action reworking of the 1991 animated film, which has toured the world as a stage production before the inevitable movie, won’t be in cinemas until April 21.

It has been released everywhere else – except Malaysia. With a lot of international scuttlebutt about the film’s “gay moment,” the LPF, Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board, pricked up their ears and decided to take closer look at the Disney film.

According to the LPF’s head, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, they found much more than the much-talked about three-second “gay moment.” Malaysia’s censors wanted to cut almost five minutes from the film because of suggestive lyrics and an unspecified moment toward the film’s finale. Disney decided to withdraw their film rather than cut it.

Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazian Mohamed claimed the famed studio that made its name on children’s fare, was trying to make a point about LGBT ideology which his government believes the Muslim-majority nation needs to oppose.

Interestingly, in both conservative Singapore and the world’s largest nation of Muslims, Indonesia, there was no problem passing Beauty and the Beast as it was.

Jazian also observed that Malaysia is a small market and withdrawing the film won’t hurt Disney’s bottom line. He’s right there. Beauty and the Beast stormed Asia and has, so far, taken a head-spinning US$54.4 million in China and US$13.8 million on the Korean peninsula.

It seems Disney has won this round against the censors, with the animated studio announcing that Beauty and the Beast will be released in Malaysia without any cuts, days after it rejected censors’ demands for a gay scene to be removed.

The blockbuster would be released on March 30 with a PG13 rating, Disney said. Two major cinema chains have confirmed the new date, two weeks after the postponed opening on March 16.

While the Korean figure pales besides the Chinese take, the fact is that Beauty and the Beast took more in its opening weekend than Kong: Skull Island took since opening the weekend before. Currently in Korea’s number two position, Kong looks to have less staying power than Logan, which resides in South Korea’s third position and now has a cumulative tally of US$16 million.

Leading the Korean films to make a fresh mark on the charts this week is M-Line’s Part-Time Spy. Heavy on the cheesecake, the espionage comedy features Gang Ye-won as a barely competent rookie who finds herself under the tutelage of gutter-mouthed, detective Han Chae-ah as they both women try and recover money stolen via a phishing scheme.

Part-Time Spy has made a mere US$802,806 on 496 screens over its opening weekend. Its current total is US$952,914.

In contrast, Showbox title The Prison, directing debut of scriptwriter (May 18, Spin Kick) Na Hyeon made US$137,417 just on the strength of its March 17 preview screenings at 43 screens across the peninsula. Featuring Shiri star Han Suk-kyu as a prison kingpin, the film looks set to go gangbusters when it rolls out this Thursday.

Last week, Disney was trumpeting the Japanese success of Moana and predicting that, riding on the Spring Equinox long weekend, it would be as successful as Frozen. The icy animated feature became Japan’s third biggest grosser yet when it was released in 2014.

What a difference a week and a vaudeville theatre full of cartoon animals makes. Universal subsidiary, Illumination Entertainment, rolled out animated musical Sing, which took US$4.8 million over the holiday weekend and relegated the Polynesian princess to second place.

Doraemon the Movie 2017: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi and La La Land fell in formation to third and fourth place, but below that Japan’s box office was brimming with new local fare, including more anime than you can shake a stick at.

While Kuroko’s Basketball The Movie: Last Game and Ancien and the Magic Tablet had their fans, it was, Pretty Cure Dream Stars!, the 22nd film in the Pretty Cure movie franchise, that was the most successful, pulling in US$1.4 million at the box office.

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