'Beauty and the Beast' to Get Strong Start in Russia Despite Gay Controversy

Beauty and the Beast - Belle Blue Dress-Screen Shot -EMBED 2017
Courtesy of Disney

Analysts say the movie could pull in as much as other opening-weekend performances, such as 'The Jungle Book.'

Beauty and the Beast, which stirred controversy in Russia over Josh Gad's gay character, is predicted to do well at the box office despite its age restriction that bars viewers under the age of 16 from admission.

The movie opens on 1,100 screens, which is a large number for a movie with a 16+ age restriction. However, observers say that the restriction may not necessarily harm the movie at the box office.

"I don't think the age restriction will have a major impact on the movie's box-office performance," Alexander Semenov, publisher and editor of the local trade journal Kinobusiness Today, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Age restrictions are not that strictly observed in Russia as, say, in the U.S. or in Western Europe," he added. Meanwhile, according to Semenov, the controversy around the movie gave it extra publicity.

Two weeks ago, hard-line legislator Vitaly Milonov called on culture minister Vladimir Medinsky to scrutinize the movie, as he suspected it might violate the Russian law prohibiting "gay propaganda among minors."

The culture ministry didn't outright ban the movie. Still, that didn't seem to discourage Russian theaters. Only 19 percent of them revised their schedules for the movie following the announcement of the age restriction, according to Cinemaplex.ru, an online trade journal for movie exhibitors.

Meanwhile, the local trade journal Exhibitor's Bulletin predicted that the movie will gross $6.8 million (400 million rubles) during its opening weekend.

For comparison, The Jungle Book took in $8.5 million (503 million rubles) in its debut weekend last year.