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Box Office: 'Lion King' climbs to No. 1 again after 17 years [Updated]

September 18, 2011 |  9:13 am

The Lion King was the No 1 new film this weekend

"The Lion King" reigned supreme at the box office this weekend, nearly two decades after the classic animated movie was first released in theaters.

A 3-D version of the 1994 family film began its limited, two-week engagement this weekend and collected a surprisingly strong $29.3 million domestically, according to an estimate from Walt Disney Pictures. 

Also opening this weekend was "Drive," a violent crime drama starring Ryan Gosling, which started off with a decent $11 million in ticket sales. Two other new films, however, flopped. A remake of 1971's "Straw Dogs" brought in only $5 million, while the Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy "I Don't Know How She Does It" grossed a weak $4.5 million.

Meanwhile, "Contagion," the pandemic thriller that debuted last weekend at No. 1, had another solid weekend in theaters. The Steven Soderbergh-directed picture saw its ticket sales fall only 35% to $14.5 million, bringing its total to $44.2 million.

Heading into the weekend, pre-release audience surveys had indicated "The Lion King" would rake in only about $15 million. But moviegoers were clearly interested in seeing the film in an updated format, as 92% of the crowd opted to purchase pricier 3-D tickets this weekend. As expected, it was mostly families who wanted to watch the movie, as 74% of the audience was composed of parents with their children.

The original version of "The Lion King" opened to $40.9 million during its first weekend in wide release 17 years ago and went on to gross an astounding $788.2 million worldwide. The film has not been available for purchase on DVD or VHS since 2004.

The reformatted film is already faring far better than 3-D versions of Pixar Animation's first two "Toy Story" films did when they were re-released as a double feature in 2009. Those two movies debuted with $12.5 million and ultimately collected $32.3 million worldwide. 

"Drive," in which Gosling plays a criminal getaway driver, is one of the best-reviewed films of the year so far. But moviegoers who saw the film this weekend -- mostly young males -- clearly did not get what they were expecting, giving the movie a dismal average grade of C-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. 

Still, bad word-of-mouth doesn't seem to be hurting the film, as the movie's ticket sales jumped 11% from Friday to Saturday. The film played nationwide this weekend but sold by far the most tickets in Los Angeles, where the movie is set. Nearly 12% of the film's overall business came from the city, compared with 9% of receipts in New York. The action movie was financed by Bold Films and Odd Lot Entertainment for about $15 million; FilmDistrict later purchased U.S. distribution rights.

While the original "Straw Dogs" was mostly beloved by critics, it too never found massive success at the box office. The updated Rod Lurie-directed version appealed to both men and women in nearly equal measure, and 54% of the crowd was over the age of 25. But those who saw the film didn't like it, giving it a poor average grade of C. The movie, about a married couple who are tormented by locals when they move to the South, was produced by Sony's Screen Gems label for about $25 million.

"I Don't Know How She Does It" is the latest disappointment for Parker, who has struggled to open a movie at the box office in recent years outside of the "Sex and the City" franchise. The film, in which she stars as a mother torn between her personal and professional duties, was produced by the Weinsten Co. for about $24 million. Critics have not been enamored with the picture and neither were moviegoers this weekend, giving it an average grade of only B-.

The movie, based on a best-selling novel by Allison Pearson, appealed mostly to older women: 80% of the crowd was female and 60% was over the age of 35. Weinstein executives said Sunday that they felt the film's ticket sales were hurt by the unexpected success of "The Lion King," as many working mothers in their target demographic may have taken their children to see the animated film this weekend.

[Updated at 12:26 p.m., Sept. 18: Like the last two films in the "Final Destination" franchise, "Final Destination 5" is faring far better overseas than domestically. Since its release in August, the movie has grossed only $41.9 million in the U.S. and Canada. But the horror flick has scared up $88.8 million internationally, performing best in France and Russia, where it has collected $18.6 million.

Here are the top 10 current movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Lion King 3-D" (Disney): Opened to $29.3 million. $700,000 overseas in 17 foreign markets. International total: $12.1 million.

2. "Contagion" (Warner Bros./Participant): $14.5 million on its second weekend, down 35%. $1.3 million overseas in seven foreign markets. Domestic total: $44.2 million. International total: $4.3 million.

3. "Drive" (FilmDistrict/Bold Films/Odd Lot): Opened to $11 million.

4. "The Help" (Disney/Dreamworks/Participant): $6.4 million on its sixth weekend, down 28%. $1.1 million overseas in one foreign market. Domestic total: $147.4 million. International total: $5.6 million.

5. "Straw Dogs" (Sony): Opened to $5 million.

6. "I Don't Know How She Does It" (Weinstein Co.): Opened to $4.5 million.

7. "The Debt" (Focus/Miramax): $2.9 million on its third weekend, down 38%. $1 million overseas in two foreign markets. Domestic total: $26.5 million. International total: $4.9 million.

8. "Warrior" (Lionsgate/MSP): $2.7 million on its second weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $9.9 million.

9. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $2.6 million on its seventh weekend, down 32%. $7.8 million overseas in 47 foreign markets. Domestic total: $171.6 million. International total: $221.2 million.

10. "Colombiana" (Sony/EuropaCorp): $2.3 million on its fourth weekend, down 42%. Domestic total: $33.3 million.]

 

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: "The Lion King" again ruled the U.S. box office. Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

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