All Hail the New Box Office ‘King’

The cub who would be king

It was a great weekend for Walt Disney Studios as their “live-action” take on their 1994 animated classic The Lion King obliterated the completion while opening to record-setting numbers.

The Lion King began its North America assault this past Thursday night on 4,725 theaters, where it went on to command a royal $185 million in ticket sales during its first three days of release. King’s debut sailed right past the previous July record of $169 million set eight years ago by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part TwoKing’s debut is also the biggest to date for a live-action version of a Disney animated classic, surpassing the opening for 2017’s Beauty and the Beast by approximately $10 million.


The daily box office breakdown for The Lion King was $23 million from Thursday night previews, $55.5 million from Friday, $61 million on Saturday and an estimated $45.4 million for Sunday.

Actor/Director Jon Favreau, who previously struck critical and financial gold with the 2016 live-action take on The Jungle Book, directed the new King. The PG-rated adventure features a diversified ensemble voice cast that includes Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner and James Earl Jones.

While the general public got caught up in the King frenzy, critics were left a bit cold. Many commented that while the film looked great, it lacked the heart that helped set apart the 1994 animated version. Simba’s cinematic rebirth scored a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 55/100 from Metacritic. Viewers polled on opening day by CinemaScore thought differently, giving the film a straight up “A.”

Internationally, the latest Disney license to print money scored $269 million this weekend. After ten days of overseas release -the film opened in China a week earlier than the rest of the world-, The Lion King has pocketed $346 million overseas. Top markets for King are China ($97 million), the United Kingdom ($20 million), France ($19 million), Mexico and Brazil ($18 million each). The final two markets to open the film are Japan (August 9th) and Italy (August 21st).

Far down in second place with an estimated $21 million was Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Spidey swung 54% less in his third weekend on 4,415 screens, but still managed to hold his own against the arrival of Disney’s latest blockbuster. After three weeks, Far From Home has brought in a great $319.6million. Home will pass the $334 million earned by 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming by next weekend. Home has cleared $651 million overseas so far. The film will pass the one billion dollar milestone by next weekend.

As if the big debut by The Lion King wasn’t enough for Disney, their animated smash Toy Story 4 continued to bring in the crowds this weekend as well. TS4 eased a mere 30% in its fifth round on 3,750 screens, which translated into a $14.6 million weekend. The acclaimed cartoon has now brought in $375.5 million. Not only will Toy Story 4 pass the $400 million mark within a few short weeks, it should also zip by Toy Story 3’s $415 million final total by the end of its run. Overseas, Buzz and Woody have brought in $484 million.

In fourth place was Paramount’s Crawl, which bit 50% less in its second round on 3,170 screens. The ten-day total for the $13 million production stands at $23.8 million. A final near the $40 million mark is possible.

Rounding out the top five once again was Universal’s Yesterday with an estimated $5.1 million from 2,662 theaters. Down 24% -the best hold of any film in the top ten-, Yesterday has earned $57.5 million after one month in North America and an additional $40 million overseas.

  1. Stuber (Fox) $4 million (-51%); $16 million
  2. Aladdin (Disney) $3.8 million (-38%); $340 million

With $988 million in the bank so far, Aladdin should cross the billion dollar mark right around the same time Spider-Man: Far From Home does.

  1. Annabelle Comes Home (Warner) $2.6 million (-53%); $66.5 million
  2. Midsommar (A24) $1.6 million (-56%); $22.4 million
  3. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal) $1.53 million (-52%); $151.5 million

Finally, and just because they didn’t have enough good news thrown its way this weekend, Disney’s late spring hit Avengers: Endgame finally unseated Avatar to become the highest-grossing film of all time at the global box office. Of course, were one to take into account inflation, neither Avatar or Endgame would come close to the real record holder, 1939’s Gone With the Wind. But hey, why rain on Disney’s parade?

Next weekend brings the long-awaited debut of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. The R-rated Sony release obviously won’t unseat The Lion King for the top spot, but it should make its presence known loud and clear in second place.

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