'Beauty and the Beast' won't be shown in Malaysia after Disney refuses to cut gay scene

Walt Disney Co.’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” will not be shown in Malaysia after the Burbank-based entertainment giant declined to remove a brief gay-themed scene from the film.

Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board had asked Disney to trim a ballroom dancing scene involving the villain Gaston and his manservant, LeFou.

The movie’s director, Bill Condon, has described the seconds-long scene involving the two characters as including a “gay moment.” Condon has said that the LeFou character, who has an apparent crush on Gaston, is “confused about his sexuality."

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The movie, which stars Emma Watson, had been scheduled to open in Malaysian theaters on Thursday.

"The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia," a spokesperson for Walt Disney Studios said.

Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, is a small movie market. For example, two recent, $1-billion-grossing Disney blockbusters released there, “Zootopia” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” each took in less than $4 million in the country, according to Box Office Mojo.

“Beauty and the Beast,” which also stars Luke Evans (as Gaston) and Josh Gad (LeFou), opens in the U.S. on Thursday night. The film is expected to have the biggest debut so far in 2017, perhaps taking in as much as $150 million in the U.S. and Canada. Prognosticators also say the movie could reach $1 billion in global ticket sales.

The film is a remake of Disney’s 1991 animated movie that itself was a loose adaptation of a 1740 French fairy tale written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” was a critical and commercial hit, winning two Academy Awards and grossing $425 million worldwide.

Malaysia is not the only place to have an issue with the LeFou dancing scene. After an ultra-conservative lawmaker in Russia called for a ban of the film, the country’s Ministry for Culture allowed it to be shown with a 16-plus rating, meaning that children under the age of 16 can only see the film if they are accompanied by someone older than 16. A drive-in theater in rural Alabama also has said it will not screen the film because of the LeFou sequence.

Disney is known for championing progressive ideals. In 2016, it threatened to stop making movies in Georgia over legislation there that was perceived as anti-gay. Disney was credited with putting pressure on Gov. Nathan Deal, who eventually vetoed the bill that would have offered protections to faith-based entities that refused to provide services that they said violated their beliefs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

daniel.miller@latimes.com

@DanielNMiller

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