When it was revealed that Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast was going to contain a gay character, a number of theaters, as well as entire nations, responded by saying the movie would not be shown. Now, one nation has decided to screen the film after all. Malaysia was one of the nations that had previously made the decision not to put Beauty and the Beast in theaters but now the country has apparently had a change of heart. The film will now open on March 30.
Originally, the Malaysian censorship board, known as the LPF, had said it would not screen Beauty and the Beast without cuts, due to the "gay moment" that had been reported took place during the film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney responded by saying that the film would not be released in Malaysia with cuts. The studio put off the film's release to give the nation time to reconsider. This was apparently the right move, as the censorship board now says the film will be released without any cuts, though it will have a PG-13 rating.
While not specifically stated, one has to wonder if the film's opening weekend box office had any sort of an impact on the decision. The film blew away the global box office, bringing in over $350 million across the world. One expects that the Malaysian box office may not have been quite so brisk over the weekend. There's a good chance that Malaysian moviegoers put some pressure on the nation to allow the movie to be seen, and certainly, theater owners would want to get in on that business.
Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon revealed in a pre-release interview that in this new version the character of Le Fou, played by Josh Gad, would be gay. While the announcement that Disney was finally including a gay character in their films was generally met with a positive response, some places were less than happy. One Alabama drive-in theater made national news by announcing it would not carry the movie. In Malaysia homosexuality is actually illegal, and thus the country has numerous laws preventing it from being depicted on screen in most cases. Several other nations with similar views have either decided to ban the film or have put more restrictive ratings on showings.
The fact that Beauty and the Beast is being projected to make as much as $1 billion while being rejected and restricted in numerous countries just goes to show how insanely popular the movie is everywhere else. It will be interesting to see if other places that have decided not to show the film change their minds now that they have seen exactly what they're missing out on.