Box Office: ‘The Lion King’s Box Office Reign Continues 17 Years Later

The Reject ReportI may have spoken a little too soon about the Circle of Life in this week’s Reject Report. The Circle of Life isn’t complete until a 17-year-old film, The Lion King in this case, gets re-released in 3D on over 2,300 screens and subsequently takes the box office by storm. That’s right. More than 17 years after its initial run, which pulled in $825.7m worldwide, The Lion King has Hakuna Matata’ed in the #1 spot yet again.

It didn’t match the $34.2m opening weekend numbers it made the first weekend of July in 1994, but it came reasonably close. Close enough to let Disney as well as anyone who even had an inkling of an idea to re-release an older film in 3D know that that might be the way to go.

Just five weekend ago article were being written about the possible demise of 3D. With films like Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night not living up to expectations, it seemed the novelty of seeing films that literally come at you may have been at its frayed end. Of course, you can’t give 3D all the credit for The Lion King stacking up against the competition. The film is a classic, regarded by many as one of Disney’s best, and the children of 1994 who fell in the love with the film are now taking their own kids to watch it. Even without the 3D element it’s a formula for success, one made even more potent with the added cost of a ticket.

Perhaps Straw Dogs and I Don’t Know How She Does It could have gone the 3D route. No, fans of the original Straw Dogs weren’t going to take their kids to see the new version of the classic, but the 3D could have only helped each of those movies perform better than they did. As it is, their combined weekend take wasn’t enough to get into double digits. Sarah Jessica Parker without Sex and the City remains unbankable, and the pseudo-vampire marketing behind Straw Dogs didn’t seem to do it any favors, either. Hell, it might have ended up hurting it. Do you remember how much Let Me In made its opening weekend last year?

The acclaim each of those movies garnered might have been a factor. Neither of them were anywhere close to being fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes, but Drive, a movie that’s being praised by critics all over the place, was able to make itself known. It didn’t surprise anyone this weekend. In fact, it came in slightly lower than expected, but considering the R-rated nature, the untested director, and arty feel the trailer gives off, Drive could have feasibly done even worse this weekend. Not bad for a director who’s never had a film pull in more than $1m domestic, and, considering Drive’s potential to go the distance, Nicolas Winding Refn’s name in Hollywood could become more and more notable. Wonder Woman and Logan’s Run await.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. The Lion King (in 3D) – $29.3m NEW
  2. Contagion – $14.4m (-35.4%) $44.1m total
  3. Drive – $11m NEW
  4. The Help – $6.4m (-27.9%) $147.3m total
  5. Straw Dogs – $5m NEW
  6. I Don’t Know How She Does It – $4.5m NEW
  7. The Debt – $2.9m (-38.3%) $26.5m total
  8. Warrior – $2.7m (-47.2%) $9.9m total
  9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $2.6m (-32.5%) $171.6m total
  10. Colombiana – $2.3m (-41.7%) $33.3m total

The $81.1m brought in for the top ten is nothing to sing Elton John songs at. Yes, it’s another upturn at the box office, and, yes, it has to be noted how well all the returning films did this weekend. Four of the top ten films had a 40% or lower drop from last weekend with The Help coming in with a less than 30% drop. Add to that the fact that The Lion King did tons better than expected, and you’d think the parades would be well on their way. You’d be half right. $81.1m is fairly impressive for this time of year. The Summer season is well behind us and the Fall Oscar films aren’t exactly in full swing yet. We’re not at a point of the year where anything is going to surprise so much that it drives the box office to more than $100m.

Take next weekend for instance. Moneyball, Abduction – I like to call it ABduction Dolphin Tale, and Killer Elite all hit. Four more movies releasing on 2000 screens or more, and it doesn’t seem likely any of them will debut to more than $20m. Well, maybe Moneyball. Brad Pitt is still an A-lister after all. And Abduction has Taylor Lautner whose appeal is…I’m not even going to finish this sentence for fear that it might drive me to Team Jacob. And no one benefits if that happens.

We’ll be back on Thursday to see how the weekend is shaping up.

Jeremy's been writing about movies for a good, 15 years, starting with the film review column of his high school newspaper. He stands proud as the first person in his high school to have seen (and recommend) Pulp Fiction. Jeremy went on to get a B.A. in Cinema and Photography with a minor in journalism. His experience and knowledge of film is aided by the list of 6600 films he has seen in his life (so far). Jeremy's belief is that there are no bad films, just unrealized possibilities. Except Batman and Robin. That shit was awful.

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