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‘The Lion King’ Roars to $23 Million Opening on Thursday Night

Disney’s “The Lion King” has pounced on a mighty $23 million in North American locations in Thursday night preview showings.

It’s the biggest preview number since Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” set the record on April 25 with $60 million. “The Lion King” is expected to debut with $150 million this weekend. Some forecasts estimate the tentpole will pull in as much as $180 million as it launches in a record 4,725 domestic locations.

Disney noted that the $23 million preview number is well ahead of the $16.3 million of “Beauty and the Beast” and $18.5 million for “Incredibles 2.”

“The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau, is a photo-realistic remake of Disney’s classic 1994 animated hit. The story is centered on a young lion named Simba assuming his role as the king of the Pride Lands animal kingdom after his father, Mufasa, is murdered. Reviewers have been split over “The Lion King” with a 56% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

“The Lion King” boasts an A-list voice cast, including Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa. James Earl Jones is reprising his role as Mufasa from the animated movie. Elton John reworked his musical compositions from the original film with Beyoncé assisting. Beyonce also created and performed a new song for the film, “Spirit,” which was released on July 9.

“The Lion King” is arriving at multiplexes at a crucial moment for the movie business with 2019 domestic box office having plunged a discouraging 9.1% to $6.26 billion as of July 19, according to Comscore. The summer has also declined by 5.9% to $2.78 billion.

“One of the most anticipated debuts of the year is set to roar as Disney’s re-imagined ‘The Lion King’ is poised to pounce on a huge opening weekend as the re-boot will have virtually every kid around the world begging their parents to take them to see this updated version of a beloved classic,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore. “The box office will get a big paw up vs. last year’s comparable weekend and knock the current deficit down a tick or two.”

“The Lion King” could also dethrone the current July opening record holder “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” which opened with $169 million in 2011 and is the 13th biggest North American opening of all time. “Avengers: Endgame” heads that list with $357.1 million with Disney-Marvel’s Captain Marvel at 19th with $153.4 million — the second-largest debut of 2019.

The movie debuted in China with a mighty $54 million last weekend, pacing ahead of the studio’s recent remakes such as “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” It launches across the globe in most international markets this weekend. “The Lion King” has topped $130 million in internationally, led by $76 million in China.

Sony’s third weekend of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” should finish second in the $20 million to $25 million range to give the superhero saga around $320 million domestically. “Spider-Man: Far from Home” has pulled in around $560 million internationally.

Disney-Pixar’s fifth frame of “Toy Story 4” will finish in third in the $10 million to $15 million range, giving the animated comedy  nearly $375 million by the end of the weekend. The second weekends of “Crawl” and “Stuber” and the third frame of “Yesterday” will be battling for fourth place at around $5 million each against Disney’s ninth weekend of “Aladdin,” which has gone past $335 million domestically.

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