Fairy tales and frothy princess gowns might be the perfect draw for kids, but with Walt Disney Co.'s (NYSE:DIS) retelling of the "Cinderella" story, the grown-ups might find themselves doing the fantasizing.
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British director Kenneth Branagh has taken the fairy tale that Disney's 1950 animated film made famous and turned it into a live-action spectacle. Stars include Lily James as Cinderella, Richard Madden as her Prince Charming and Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as the glamorous, wicked stepmother.
Opening Friday, the film could top the U.S. and Canadian box office in its opening weekend with $64 million, according to Boxoffice.com. But Disney will also spin revenue from adult-focused merchandise, including high heels inspired by the glass slipper.
Branagh said he wanted to bring Cinderella into the 21st century with woman power.
"She's not a victim; she's not passive," he told Reuters. "She's a strong woman, but her generosity of spirit is an inspiring thing."
At a recent screening, Cinderella's sojourn elicited sighs and tears from the predominantly female audience, something that Branagh said reflects demand for more movies that appeal to women.
"The female audience across all ages for movies, they drive moviegoing," Branagh said. "Why shouldn't they see stuff that somehow reflects them?"
The film closely follows the classic tale of the orphaned girl bullied by her stepmother and stepsisters.
Her fairy godmother transforms her into a princess to attend the royal ball, where she dances with Prince Charming and runs away at the stroke of midnight, leaving the famous glass slipper behind that leads the Prince to her.
"It's the story of the underdog, that you root for the girl who has nothing but deserves so much more because she's so good and kind," James said.
Disney drew top names in retail, design and make-up for its movie merchandising afterglow.
Saks Fifth Avenue spun high-end designer renditions of the glass slipper, with Jerome C. Rousseau's midnight-blue stiletto starting at $795 to Jimmy Choo's crystal-studded heel at $4,595.
MAC Cosmetics developed a limited-edition "Cinderella" collection of fairy dust-inspired eyeshadows, blushes and lipsticks priced between $17 and $44. It sold out online within hours of release.
"There's something about how Disney brings characters to life," said MAC Global Brand President Karen Buglisi-Weiler, "and how they resonate with so many people of all ages."
(By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Von Ahn)