By David Daniel
(CNN – March 16, 2015) — “Cinderella,” the latest live-action retelling of a classic, sparkled like a glass slipper in its opening weekend, with an estimated debut of $70.1 million.
That’s well above expectations of $50 to 60 million, and it tops last year’s $69.4 million opening for “Maleficent,” another take on the classic fairy tale, which featured Angelina Jolie and a darker tone.
This version, however is sweetness and light, thanks to veteran director Kenneth Branagh. Small-screen stars Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) and Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) play Ella and her Prince, who overcome personal grief and uncertainty with courage and goodness. Oscar winner Cate Blanchett provides venom as the wicked stepmother.
Reviews for “Cinderella” have been strong, with a current Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83%. Disney timed the release well: It’s been more than a month since a family film hit theaters (if you can call the “SpongeBob” sequel a “family” film), and some American school districts just began spring break.
Liam Neeson’s latest thriller, “Run All Night,” opened in a very soft second place. Neeson has been a solid draw since he reinvented himself as an action star six years ago with “Taken,” but “Run All Night” debuted even more weakly than last year’s dismal “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” This time out, he plays a former hit man whose family is targeted by his old boss, played by Ed Harris — but it seems people would rather see Neeson attack and fight than run.
In limited release, the critically acclaimed horror thriller “It Follows” made $163,000 in just four theaters, far and away the weekend’s best per-theater average. Among returning films, Colin Firth and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” shone the brightest, topping the $100 million mark in total domestic grosses and actually rising a spot on the chart, while last weekend’s winner, “Chappie,” and runner-up, “Focus,” duked it out for fourth place.
Next weekend, Shailene Woodley returns in the young adult action sequel “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” while Sean Penn tries the action genre with Idris Elba and Javier Bardem in “The Gunman.”