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‘The Lion King’ Ruling Box Office With Dazzling Debut at $180 Million

Disney’s “The Lion King” has jolted the North American box office back to life with an opening weekend in the $180 million range, estimates showed Saturday.

The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and could replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched last year with $182.7 million, as the ninth biggest North American launch of all time.

The film is outperforming pre-release forecasts, which had been in the $150 million to $180 million range at a record 4,725 domestic locations. Disney reported that “The Lion King” delivered a massive $78.5 million opening day domestically, becoming the 10th highest opening day in industry history.

Though critics were mixed with a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, moviegoers gave “The Lion King” an A CinemaScore. Disney issued a $175 million forecast for the weekend while other estimates placed the tentpole at $188 million.

It’s the first weekend in more than a month in which the overall domestic box office has outperformed the year-ago frame. By itself, “The Lion King” will exceed the entire $176 million take from the 2018 weekend, which was led by “The Equalizer 2” with $36 million and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” with $35 million.

“The Lion King” is arriving at multiplexes 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.

“What the marketplace needed was a box office lion in summer and given Friday’s results, the outlook is strong that Simba and his pals could deliver the biggest July opening weekend of all-time that will be the pride of the industry when the results are released on Sunday,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore.

“The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau, is a photo-realistic remake of Disney’s classic 1994 animated hit, and stars 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. Beyoncé also created and performed a new song for the film, “Spirit.”

The movie debuted in China a week ago and has pulled in $81 million so far. “The Lion King” has already topped $192 million internationally as of Friday.

Sony’s third weekend of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” should finish second in the $21 million range to give the superhero saga around $320 million domestically. “Spider-Man: Far from Home” has also pulled in around $560 million internationally.

Disney-Pixar’s fifth frame of “Toy Story 4” will finish in third in the $14 million range, giving the animated comedy nearly $375 million by the end of the weekend. The second weekend of Paramount’s “Crawl” will come in fourth with about $6 million and the third frame of Universal’s “Yesterday” will finish fifth at around $5 million. Fox’s second weekend of “Stuber” is battling Disney’s ninth weekend of “Aladdin” for sixth place.

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