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‘Cinderella’ magic wins weekend box office

Cinderella’s live-action dreams didn’t end at midnight. The Kenneth Branagh-directed Disney retelling of the 1950 animated classic was the belle of the box office ball, topping the weekend with $70.1 million, according to studio estimates. Downton Abbey star Lily James, as Cinderella, and Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, as Prince Charming, were a hit with critics, scoring an 83% approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Audiences gave the film an A on CinemaScore. It outperformed Disney’s last live-action fairy tale, 2014′s Maleficent, which started with $69.4 million.635619952087749290-AP-BOX-OFFICE-71570860

The experience also included the animated short Frozen Fever, the first screen reunion of the Frozen cast since that movie’s 2013 box office domination. With recent weekends dominated by R-rated films, Cinderella provided a double dose of family fare, and moviegoers responded accordingly: The opening is the sixth-largest March opening ever. “Cinderella and Frozen Fever enticed a lot of families into the theaters, an irresistible draw in a marketplace which has been pretty desolate for them,” says Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Rentrak. “It’s pretty much a fairy-tale box office weekend for Disney.”

Liam Neeson’s Run All Night trotted into second place in its debut weekend with $11 million. The R-rated action flick saw Neeson, as a hitman at the end of his career, battling his old friend and Mob boss played by Ed Harris. The release comes two months after Neeson’s return as Bryan Mills in Taken 3. “Fatigue is finally setting in on Liam Neeson’s action career,” says Jeff Bock, box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. “Since (2008′s) Taken, you can only put out so many films that seem exactly the same. But he’s had an amazing run.”

Run All Night was a mixed bag with critics, who gave it a 59% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences scored it an A- on CinemaScore.

Colin Firth’s starring role in Kingsman: The Secret Service continues to show serious staying power, landing in third in its fifth weekend after it cruised past the $100 million mark during the week. Kingsman took $6.2 million for the weekend ($107.4 million total).

Fourth place went to Will Smith and Margot Robbie’s turn as romantically intertwined con artists in Focus, which took $5.8 million for a total of $44 million in its third weekend.