Disney’s limited run of The Lion King in 3D arrived on the scene and easily took over the number one spot from last week’s champ Contagion. The Lion King easily held off a trio of newcomers whose openings ranged from okay to downright awful. While the top ten was down slightly (-3.4%) from last year at this time, it did surge 34% over the previous weekend.
Take a beloved Disney animated classic from the early 1990s, spruce up the print with a restoration, add 3D technology, introduce it to a new generation for a limited theatrical run and you have the recipe for box office gold. Arriving two weeks ahead of its Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D premiere (a standalone DVD reissue is due in stores on November 15), The Lion King reigned supreme on 2,330 screens for a great $29.3 million for an excellent $12,575 per screen average. The lifetime total (pre-inflation, of course) for the beloved classic now stands just shy of $360 million.
While a majority of the screens playing The Lion King were 3D equipped, the film’s real pull was the opportunity for a new generation of kids not around in 1994 to experience the movie on the big screen. Depending on how well the movie holds in its second weekend, this limited run could produce a healthy $50 million in additional revenue before earning untold fortunes this fall on home video.
With Simba and his furry friends back in town, Steven Soderbergh and his crew had to abdicate the throne after one week of rule. Occupying second place this weekend, Warner’s Contagion slid only 35% to earn $14.4 million from 3,222 screens. After ten days, the ensemble thriller has earned a solid $44.1 million and could be heading to the $75-80 million range depending on how strong successive holds turn out. Strong reviews and an excellent ad campaign got the film out the door, and viewer word of mouth is keeping it afloat.
In third place was the second wide release of the weekend, FilmDistrict’s crime thriller Drive. The critically-acclaimed film (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) from director Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks opened on 2,806 screens and revved its way to an okay $11 million estimated opening. Like Contagion and the smash hit The Help, Drive is a movie geared toward adult audiences who normally don’t rush out to see a movie on opening weekend. If the word-of-mouth matches the critical praise, Drive may sustain itself over the next few weeks to become a solid early fall sleeper hit.
Speaking of The Help, the Disney/Dreamworks smash had another terrific week as it dipped a mere 27% as it added $6.4 million to its already big total, which now stands at $147.3 million after six weeks. The film is now looking for at least $170 million if not more.
The two other wide releases of the weekend, Sony’s remake of Straw Dogs and the Weinstein Company’s comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It, landed in fifth and sixth place respectively. Both were dead on arrival as well. Straw Dogs, a remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah thriller that starred Dustin Hoffman and Susan George (the remake was directed by Rod Lurie and stars James Madsen and Kate Bosworth), got slammed by critics (37% on Rotten Tomatoes) and ignored by moviegoers. Those that turned up at the 2,408 theaters showing the remake contributed to a weak $5 million estimated opening.
A better title for the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy may have been I Don’t Know Why They Bothered in the First Place. The Douglas McGrath-directed flick was crucified by critics (20% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and found most of its targeted audience, adult females, opting to see (be it the first time or a repeated viewing) The Help instead. How She Does It also stars Christina Hendricks, Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear.
The remainder of the top ten was as follows:
7) The Debt (Focus Features) $2.95 million (-38% from last weekend) $26.5 million to date
8) Warrior (Lionsgate) $2.7 million (-47%) $9.9 million
9) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Fox) $2.62 million (-32%) $171.2 million
10) Columbiana (Sony) $2.3 million (-41%) $33.3 million
Next weekend, another quartet of new films arrive on the scene to challenge The Lion King for the top spot: Sony’s sports drama Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Open Road Films’ Killer Elite (2011) starring Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro and Clive Owen, the Warner family film Dolphin Tale featuring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, and the Taylor Lautner action flick Abduction.
– Shawn Fitzgerald