3D re-release bests newcomers with $29.3 mil

Despite competition from notable newcomers and a pandemic-premised holdover, the 3D re-release of Disney’s classic “The Lion King” won the domestic box office with an outstanding $29.3 million, opening the door for future 3D toon retrofits for the Mouse.

Given the unexpected success of the release (Friday predictions had “Lion King” topping out at$18 million), other 3D conversions could be on tap, Disney global distribution prexy Dave Hollis said, but there are no specifics on which titles the company may release. The first question, said Hollis, is whether to extend “Lion King’s” planned two-week engagement.

Internationally, pic is playing in 17 markets, where it has cumed $12.1 million, outshone by six-time overseas B.O. champ “The Smurfs.” Sony’s toon hybrid collected another $17.3 million this frame for an international total of $344.5 million. Universal’s “Johnny English Reborn” opened promisingly with $11.7 million in 15 territories including Australia and Russia. This bow is the biggest for a Rowan Atkinson starrer.

Stateside, Warner Bros.’ “Contagion” dropped to second with $14.5 million, a better-than-expected 35% drop from its debut frame. Thriller has a $44.2 million domestic cume.

This weekend’s fresh pair of R-rated thrillers both landed near the top of the charts. FilmDistrict’s “Drive” grossed $11 million while Sony/Screen Gems’ remake of “Straw Dogs” made $5 million, putting it in fifth. Wedged between the two, Disney’s long-legged aud-pleaser “The Help” pulled in $6.4 million for its sixth frame in the top five. It has cumed $147.4 million domestically and $5.6 million from Australia, its only international market so far.

“Drive,” which stars Ryan Gosling as an L.A. heist getaway driver, is playing particularly well in urban areas. Of its total weekend gross, 11.6% came from Los Angeles, up from the 8% typical of wide releases.

Although exact figures weren’t available, FilmDistrict theatrical distribution prexy Bob Berney said the film skewed to a younger male and Latino audience, though there was some surprising play from an older crowd, both male and female, likely fueled by positive critical reception. With releases of both “Moneyball” and “The Ides of March” around the corner, FilmDistrict is conservatively optimistic about the pic’s legs.

“It’s competitive, but I think we have a film that’s so different, we’re going to hang in there,” Berney added.

At north of $10 million, “Drive’s” gross fell in line with FilmDistrict’s expectations, which is more than can be said for Weinstein Co.’s “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” which grossed $4.5 million through Sunday. TWC theatrical distribution prexy Erik Lomis blamed “Lion King” for pulling away the female aud. However, he said they expect better business for the Sarah Jessica Parker film in the days ahead.

“There’s really nothing aimed at that group in the next few weeks, so we have a clear shot,” Lomis added.

“Straw Dogs” was also a disappointment for Sony. Budgeted around $20 million, pic saw a nearly even split of male and female with 54% of moviegoers over 25. With stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard, Rod Lurie’s remake of the gritty Sam Peckinpah drama was aiming for a younger crowd.

With its B.O.-busting 3D “Lion King” retrofit, Disney may have happened upon a good omen for the future.Dave Hollis said the conversion to 3D, which cost the Mouse somewhere in the low single digits, was planned for a home entertainment release before the company decided to give exhibs the chance to screen the 1994 toon in its new format.

The limited engagement, timed to promote the Oct. 4 Blu-ray release, has become the first reissue to win the weekend box office since the original “Star Wars” trilogy was re-released in 1997.

Hollis added that the re-release reflects a “manifestation of the circle of life,” with a new generation getting to experience the pic in theaters.

Though all 2,330 locations are in 3D, Disney also provided 2D versions to exhibs in light of the recent decline in B.O. returns for the format, letting theaters choose when to screen which version. Still, “Lion King” made 92% of its gross from 3D runs.

This frame actually marks the second time “Lion King” has been re-released. In 2002, Disney partnered with Imax on a limited run that cumed $15.7 million. Altogether, the title and its re-releases have cumed $825.7 million globally.Specialty scene

In limited release this weekend, Sony Pictures Classics opened Gus van Sant’s “Restless” on five screens in L.A. and New York for a gross of $17,285.

“Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain” from Code Black Entertainment continues to surprise the indie circuit, grossing another $1.15 million for a 10-day cume of $3.6 million and a $5,000 per screen average.

Cohen Media Group unspooled “My Afternoons With Margueritte” on one screen each in L.A. and New York this weekend for the frame’s highest per screen average of $10,457.

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