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$8.8 million makes ‘Lion’ king of Friday B.O.

3D re-release could earn $20 million this weekend

Baring its teeth in its first weekend of re-release, Disney’s ”The Lion King” scared away the competition with $8.8 million domestically Friday night.

The 3D toon conversion, which kicked off the beginning of a two-week engagement to tubthump the Oct. 4 DVD and Blu-ray re-release, could pull in close to $20 million this frame. ”Lion King” played well both early in the day and into the evening, suggesting younger auds are meeting Simba for the first time while teen and older auds seeking nostalgia are both heading to the plexes this weekend, a fact that bodes well for the Mouse.

Pic has already collected $10.8 million from mostly Spanish-speaking territories, and although all 2,330 locations are playing the film in 3D, Disney shipped a 2D version as well, letting exhibs decide when to screen in which format.

”Lion King” beat back last week’s winner, Warner Bros.’ ensembler ”Contagion,” which dropped 42% for a Friday take of $4.6 million. If it maintains this rate, ”Contagion” should land in the low- to mid-teens through Sunday, in line with pre-weekend predictions.

Third place went to FilmDistrict’s ”Drive,” which opened to about $4 million last night. Judging by last year’s adult-skewing early fall releases, ”Drive” should land just north of $10 million in three days, keeping it in third this frame.

The bottom of the top five was a horse race between Sony/Screen Gems’ ”Straw Dogs,” which grossed about $2 million last night, and Disney holdover ”The Help,” which made $1.9 million. ”Straw Dogs,” toplined by young adult favorites James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard, may be held back by its R rating.

And landing just outside last night’s tops, Weinstein Co.’s ”I Don’t Know How She Does It” gross $1.6 million Friday. Pic is expected to bow around $6 million this frame.

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