Based on this weekend's box office results it's clear America isn't averse to heading to the multiplex. They are just waiting for a reason to justify the ticket prices and the return of the Disney classic "The Lion King," in converted 3D, was it. The revered 1994 animated classic was expected to gross anywhere from $11-13 million in pre-release polling, but stunned the industry by finding an estimated $29.3 million for the weekend.
This speaks more to where moviegoers rank "The Lion King" in their hearts than about any opportunity Disney took. "King" is being released on Blu-ray for the first time Oct. 4 and the re-release was intended to generate interest for the home entertainment product. Instead, Disney may be looking at a huge addition to its bottom line for the third quarter. Considering the next family oriented competition is just "Dolphin Tale 3D," the Mouse House could easily push this re-release to $70-80 million.
Among other films in the marketplace, "Contagion" had a fine 35% drop as it found another $14.4 million in its second weekend. In just 10 days, the Steven Soderbergh ensemble thriller has grossed $44.1 million domestic. It should easily recoup it's $60 million budget after international territories weigh in.
Debuting somewhat disappointingly was the critically acclaimed "Drive" in third with $11.1 million. The Ryan Gosling thriller may have benefited form a slower roll out to capitalize on word of mouth. FilmDistrict, which recently suffered with the Hurricane affected opening of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," will no doubt be hoping for a solid hold next weekend.
"The Help" was knocked out of the top two slots for the first time dropping to fourth with $6.4 million. After $147.3 million, the melodrama is DreamWorks first jewel since transitioning from Paramount to Disney this year.
Two other films debuted to tepid results. Screen Gems "Straw Dogs" landed in fifth with just $5 million and "I Don't Know How She Does It" was right behind with $4.5 million. Neither should be in theaters for long.
Next weekend offers for new releases in what should be a very competitive marketplace; Brad Pitt's "Moneyball," the family themed "Dolphin Tale 3D," Open Road's first release "Killer Elite" and Taylor Lautner's first solo effort, "Abduction."
Final box office results are released on Monday.