LOS ANGELES • Belle just showed Batman who is boss.
With Disney's promotional machinery running full tilt and the masses apparently caring little about the inclusion of a gay character, Beauty And The Beast arrived to an astounding US$170 million (S$237 million) in ticket sales in North America over the weekend.
That total broke multiple Hollywood records, including one set last year by Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice for the biggest March opening.
The musical also collected an extra US$180 million overseas, placing it on a path towards US$1 billion in worldwide ticket sales by the end of its run, analysts said. It cost roughly US$300 million to make and market.
About 60 per cent of the domestic audience was female. Notably for a PG-rated movie, extra-large- screen theatres such as those operated by Imax were packed.
"The world is a pretty cynical place right now and Beauty And The Beast gave audiences an opportunity to go back to a time of innocence," Mr Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax's filmed entertainment, said on Sunday.
He added that the turnout also reflected nostalgia for Disney's 1991 animated version of the fairy tale and the generational appeal of British actress Emma Watson, 26, who plays Belle in the new version.
The decision by the film's director, Bill Condon, to make the comic sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad) a gay character had prompted a media uproar, with some conservatives expressing outrage online and politicians in countries such as Russia and Malaysia joining in. The ruckus appeared to have little to no effect on the results.
About 84 per cent of United States parents who saw the film on its opening day said they would "definitely" recommend it for families, according to PostTrak, a polling service run by comScore and Screen Engine.
The blockbuster opening validates Disney's decision to remake its classic animated films as liveaction event movies, something that has rankled some critics.
New versions of Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, Mulan and The Lion King, among others, are on the way.