Disney re-release takes top B.O. slot

There’s nothing ho-hum nowadays about a $30 million domestic opening — especially when it’s a 3D retrofit of a family film released nearly two decades ago.

But that’s precisely what happened for Disney’s “The Lion King” 3D.

The Mouse’s 3D toon redo wound up defying all expectations (pre-weekend tracking had it pegged at around $12 million), and breathed new (multi-dimensional) life into what was already the fifth-highest grossing animated film ever in the U.S.

“There was a moment on Friday when we thought it was going to be $18 million or $19 million,” says Disney distrib topper Dave Hollis. “But then it just kept getting better and better.”

Hollis attributes the better-than-expected opening to nostalgic adults turning out for evening showtimes, as well as an outstanding 91% 3D share. The film’s 3D take defied recent trends for family films, which typically range between 45%-50% from 3D.

Disney screened “The Lion King” in 3D at every location, leaving it up to exhibs to decide whether to provide a 2D option. (The Mouse House did suggest that exhibs screen the toon in 2D no more than twice per day, however.)

As to the re-release’s future sked, Hollis says the studio likely will add showtimes beyond the planned two-week run.

“I’ve had some concerns about whether (the opening) was too frontloaded, but that doesn’t seem to be the case because we’ve had fantastic early week grosses,” Hollis says.

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