Film to play El Capitan ahead of home video

Disney finally is unveiling its theatrical 3D version of “Beauty and the Beast” from Sept. 2-15 — but only in a single-run engagement at the Mouse’s El Capitan theater in L.A.

The studio had flirted with several possible launch dates for a wide release of “Beauty and the Beast” in 3D but ultimately pulled it from the calendar after announcing it would release a 3D “The Lion King” on Sept. 16. Disney then settled on the exclusive 3D run for “Beauty,” timed to increase interest ahead of the pic’s 3D DVD/Blu-ray launch on Oct. 4.

Disney said it still hasn’t ruled out a wide release of the 3D “Beauty,” though not until after “Lion King” bows.

As part of the El Capitan engagement, Disney plans to have someone dressed as the toon’s Belle character appear live onstage prior to every show. The theater will host a breakfast with the character before the screening on select dates.

3D conversions of “Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” (though not as originally planned for the latter) allow the Mouse to mine its vault in new ways — much as it did with “Toy Story.”

The “Toy Story” double bill allowed Disney to reactivate the franchise’s merchandising line in anticipation of last year’s “Toy Story 3.” The “Toy” 3D combo, which bowed in October 2009, earned $30.7 million domestically and nearly $35 million from overseas box office.

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