Fueled by females of all ages, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella topped the Friday box office with $23 million from 3,845 theaters for a possible $70 million-plus debut, putting it just ahead of fellow Disney blockbuster Maleficent.
The live-action fairy tale earned an A CinemaScore from Friday’s audience (those over the age of 39 gave it an A+ CinemaScore). Females eager to see the retelling of the classic princess tale made up 77 percent of ticket buyers, while 56 percent of the audience was under the age of 25, including a hearty 44 percent under the age of 18.
In May 2014, Maleficent debuted to a stellar $69.4 million, thanks in no small measure to Angelina Jolie. Cinderella’s performance is all the more impressive considering its leading lady, Downton Abbey’s Lily James, isn’t a known quantity. James stars opposite Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and Richard Madden.
Sweetening the pot, Disney is playing its new Frozen Fever short in front of Cinderella.
Moviegoing has plummeted in recent weeks, but Cinderella heralds a turnaround, with revenue expected to be up as much as 20 percent.
Overseas, the $95 million movie opens in 60 percent of the international marketplace, including China, Russia, Germany, Italy and Mexico.
The weekend’s other new offering, Liam Neeson’s Run All Night, doesn’t look it will live happily ever after. The Warner Bros. movie grossed $3.9 million Friday for a projected debut just north of $11 million, Neeson’s worst showing since he became a leading older action star (The Next Three Days launched to $6.5 million in 2012, but he only had a supporting role).
In January, Neeson’s Taken 3, debuting to $39.2 million in January (the film marked the final title in the popular franchise). His film before that, A Walk Among the Tombstones, opened to $12.8 million in September 2014.
Jaume Collet-Serra directed the $50 million action film for Warner Bros. Also starring Joel Kinnaman, Common and Ed Harris, Run All Night stars Neeson as a hitman who is forced to take on his former boss in order to save his son.
Run All Night is pacing to come in No. 2, followed by formidable holdover Kingsman: The Secret Service, which is projected to earn $6.2 million its fifth weekend for a domestic total at $107.3 million through Sunday. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Focus will compete for the No. 4 slot, while Chappie will tumble to No. 6 in its second weekend with a projected weekend gross of $5.3 million for a domestic total of $22.9 million.