Disney’s The Lion King will take pride of place this weekend in China where it’s bowing ahead of the rest of the world. With anticipation and a clear runway for the opening, the CGI/live-action adaptation of the 1994 classic is poised for a $50 million-$60 million three-day bow, per industry projections. The Middle Kingdom debut could notch higher, depending on where the social scores land.
Previews began tonight local time with about $500,000. As this isn’t seen as a front-loaded picture, the numbers are not indicative of the full frame which is likely to skew to families. Again, a lot depends on word of mouth.
The original Lion King (which has a 9 on reviews aggregator Douban) was the highest-grossing animated film for some years in the Middle Kingdom, having made just $5M through its run. There is high awareness for the upcoming title and reaction to the trailers has been positive.
Also working in the Jon Favreau-directed Lion King’s favor is a lack of head-on competition. Spider-Man: Far From Home is going into its third frame and local movies The Eight Hundred and Better Days were pulled from their original, albeit earlier, July dates. The next major local release is Looking Up on July 18.
The best comps for The Lion King in the Middle Kingdom are 2016’s The Jungle Book, likewise helmed by Favreau, and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. The former opened in China to $49M and legged out to $150M. It carried a 7.8 on Douban and an 8.9 on Maoyan. BATB did $45M in its first China weekend with a final of $86M. Its scores were 7.2 on Douban and 8.2 from Maoyan. (Though Lion King is expected to come in far higher, it’s worth noting that another recent live-action update of a classic Disney property, Aladdin, did $19M on its opening weekend in the market.)
We’ll update with the social scores when they become available and will be looking at Lion King’s progression throughout the weekend. The rest of international box office rollout begins this coming week with the North American debut July 19.
In terms of local promotions in China, a dual campaign targeted fans of the original film and general moviegoers. Theme song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was made into a custom duet by Beyoncé and Jacky Cheung that debuted under a partnership with Tencent Music Group. The film’s premiere on Tuesday night this week at the Disney Shanghai Grand Theater featured a performance by Lang Lang.
Lion King trailered locally with Far From Home and The Secret Life of Pets 2. PLF partnerships included a collaboration with Imax, plus word of mouth screenings, exclusive posters and giveaways. Dolby collaborated with co-branded assets and fan screening events; RealD partnered for in-theater lightboxes, standees and content pieces; and Tao Piao Piao worked with Disney on screening events in Beijing, Wuhan and Shanghai.
Mall exhibitions were set up in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chongqing which were sponsored by Ford. Further promotional partners on the film include Suning, Pandora, Lluma and QQ. There were also takeovers of Uniqlo’s flagship stores in Shanghai.
A digital campaign in collaboration with Weibo launched tailor-made social activations. Custom made materials and activations were also found across key digital platforms including Douban, Tao Piao Piao, Alipay, Taobao, Youku, Eleme, Qunar, Weishi and Xiami.
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