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‘Beauty and the Beast’ Opens Strong in China With ‘Gay Moment’ Intact

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which has ruffled feathers in some conservative countries because of a “gay moment” in the film, opened Friday in China uncut and on top of the box office.

Opening day-and-date with its North American release, “Beauty and the Beast” grossed $11.8 million (RMB81.2 million) by 9:00 p.m. Friday in China, according to ticketing service Wepiao. That took the cumulative gross, including previews, to an early milestone of RMB100 million, or $14.5 million.

The brief “gay moment” (as director Bill Condon calls it) involving the character Le Fou at the end of the movie left China’s sometimes testy censors unflustered. That was in contrast to the situation in neighboring Asian country Malaysia, where censors asked for the scene to be cut.

The film has not been released in Malaysian theaters after Disney refused to make the change. “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” the studio said, in a statement cited by local media. Disney has also reportedly asked the Malaysian Censorship Board to review its decision. The board is expected to meet next Tuesday.

In Russia, officials slapped a rating on the film restricting the audience to viewers age 16 and over.

The brevity of the scene and the minor importance of the character may have informed China’s decision to keep the movie intact, which was trumpeted by state media. “Controversial gay moment kept in Disney’s #BeautyAndTheBeast. Movie premiered on Mar 17 in China, requires no guidance for minor audience,” The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, said via its Twitter account.

That liberal approach to “Beauty and the Beast” also stands in contrast to other recent decisions in China. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” was cut by 7 minutes, “Logan” by 14 minutes.

China has no rating system; films are supposed to be open to audiences of all ages. That has sometimes prompted censors to excise sexual, political or religious references. Last year’s “Deadpool” did not get an import license in China.

Although falling well short of a formal classification or rating system, China’s newly enacted Film Promotion Law introduces an official warning mechanism for the first time. For films which “might attract minors or other audiences that are physically or psychologically inappropriate, a warning should be given,” the law says. That was deemed necessary for “Logan” but not for “Beauty.”

On its Friday debut, “Beauty” played some 100,000 screenings. According to Wepiao, that is 43% of all screenings in China. The gross represents a powerful 70% of receipts, far ahead of second-place “A Dog’s Purpose,” with 15% box office share, and third-ranked “Logan,” with 8%.

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