Monday Midday Update: Final domestic opening weekend for The Lion King per Disney is $191.77M, which is very close to where the industry was seeing it yesterday morning and well above the $185M that the studio reported. This is after a Sunday that was $52.8M, -13%. Lion King‘s opening completely stopped Beauty and the Beast‘s opening B.O. ball of $174.7M and was even higher than such Disney theme park IP pics like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($135.6M opening, the highest in that pic series).
When it came to rebooting The Lion King, it wasn’t just because it was the 25th anniversary of the original 1994 animated feature for the studio. Rather it was about the talent of filmmaker Jon Favreau. This weekend, he also notched the best domestic opening of his career as director, besting the $128.1M debut of Iron Man 2.
“One thing Walt (Disney) use to do, which we talk a lot about, he would look at stories that were timeless, and think about how do you get great talent and great technology to give audience a new experience. After Jungle Book we so believed in Jon Favreau and we saw the technology that was developing with this team, and with our effects house. Jon and I had a meal in Santa Monica, and had a ‘Do we dare?’ conversation. And it was the talent of Jon, (VFX supervisors) Rob Legato, Adam Valdez and (animation supervisor) Andy Jones, and the cast we could assemble and the technology we knew that was evolving at an incredible pace.,” said Walt Disney Studios President of Film Production Sean Bailey on why it was time to reboot The Lion King.
In regards to Disney moving forward with their current plan of remaking Disney animated vault classics into live-action features, the IP isn’t just limited to toons, rather spinoffs of Disney classics, theme parks and the studio’s earlier live-action pics.
Expounding on the studio’s remake plans to Deadline at The Lion King world premiere, Bailey told us that the studio “is interested in seeing” as these films evolve and whether there are “characters that can be spun in interesting ways. It’s figuring out what excites us.” Up next is the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on Oct. 18, which the studio moved up out of Memorial Day next year. Then there’s Cruella on Dec. 23, 2020 with Emma Stone playing the famed female baddie from 101 Dalmatians, as well as The Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt inspired by the Disney theme park attraction. So as far as rebooting potential classics — the well is plenty deep for Disney whenever they decide on doing Moana, the Frozen franchise, or Aristocats as live action remakes. Previously announced, Beauty and the Beauty producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman are in early development of a live-action take of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Sunday AM Update: What an awesome weekend for Disney. After pulling the veil off their awesome 2020 and 2021 theatrical and streaming slate for Marvel here at Comic-Con, and unseating Avatar as the highest grossing film of all-time with Avengers: Endgame (north of $2.7897 billion), their remake of The Lion King ripped up the July record for best domestic opening with an estimated $192M, easily defeating prior 2011 champ Harry and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $169.1M. Saturday drew an estimated $61.6M, -21% from Friday’s $78.5M which included $23M Thursday night previews.
Disney is reporting $185M this morning for the weekend, but everyone else sees the Jon Favreau-directed pic higher. As we mentioned in the previous update, Lion King is Favreau’s highest opening ever; it’s also the highest opening for a Disney animation reboot after Beauty and the Beast‘s $174.7M. The international weekend for Lion King was $269.4M, global weekend was $454.4M. This puts the overseas running total at $346M, and global cume at $531M (all per Disney’s calculations).
While many rival studios have come to the sober realization that Disney will rule the box office for years to come, many executives agree that this is the fiercest year of all as the Burbank lot ramps up his streaming service Disney+. With one massive event pic after the other i.e. Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, Lion King and Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it’s like one massive advertisement for Disney+. There’s no reason why anyone would not want to sign up for it. With more than $2.4 billion at the domestic box office through this weekend, Disney could do half that amount of business this year and still beat its No. 2 competition Warner Bros. by close to two-fold.
In Disney exits, females repped 53% of the crowd, adults 38%, families 54%, and teens 9% with an even 50/50 split under/over 25. Those 25-49 made up 39% of the crowd.
Again with all these box office successes for the studio, it’s more than theatrical, rather creating experiences for their consumers. “The box office starts the wave” explained Cathleen Taff, Disney President of Distribution and Franchise management this morning. “It allows us to bring these stories to life in product; the parks will get a lift from this, but it’s about bringing these films into the lives of others 365 days a year whether it’s on social, consumer products or the parks.”
With Lion King, the entire weekend’s B.O. per ComScore in early estimates shot up 51% over a year ago with $261M. Summer, as we wrote during our mid-season report, is still healthy at $3.589 billion for the frame between April 26-July 21, 1% higher than the same period a year ago when Avengers: Infinity War made all the noise. The annual box office for Jan. 1-July 21 is still -7% behind the same period in 2018 with $6.5B. At this point a year ago, we were past the $7 billion mark.
All different product vendors bask in the rays of a box office success like this, and in the case of Lion King 3D repped 36% of the global $531M tally.
“The Lion King is a visually magnificent entertainment experience that is even more spectacular and special when you see it in RealD. This film was designed and shot to be seen in 3D and audiences fully appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making this film completely unique,” said Travis Reid, President, Worldwide Cinema and Chief Operating Officer for RealD. “Congratulations to Jon Favreau and the Disney production, distribution and marketing teams on a truly remarkable film.”
In regards to Imax, at $25.2M Lion King is their biggest global opening ever for a Disney-branded title, 26% higher than the worldwide debuts of Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. It’s also the 2nd highest global July Imax opening ever after Spider-Man: Far From Home. In U.S./Canada, Lion King minted $12.6M at 410 auditoriums for a $30,7K per screen, the second highest Disney-branded Imax opening after Incredibles 2.
WEEKEND B.O. FOR jULY 19-21
Saturday AM Update: While it’s clear that The Lion King is bound to be the king of July, overtaking Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.1M), the pic, after clocking an estimated $78.5M yesterday, is now headed to $192M-$200M for the weekend, which, for the second half of the calendar year, is the third-best opening after Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($247.9M) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($220M). For director Jon Favreau, Lion King is easily the best opening of his career, leaping far beyond the debut of Iron Man 2 ($128M.1).
How much front-loading will occur continues to be the question, and some are seeing a -15% ease from Friday’s number (which includes Thursday’s $23M previews). For Disney, remaking this movie is like remaking Star Wars. It’s one one of their most beloved (some may argue their most beloved) animated classics. While other Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin have added different musical numbers, with the latter truly wowing its re-interpretation by director Guy Ritchie and Will Smith, you don’t want to mess around with The Lion King (Hello, James Earl Jones continues to voice one of the lead roles, Mufasa). And while critics (at 55% Rotten) have sniped that it’s too close to the original 1994 movie, that’s part of the point here in order to pull in a massive crowd, and to make Lion King self-fulfilling prophesy at the box office. Jon Favreau’s Lion King gets an A CinemaScore and 4 stars throughout with general audiences, parents, and kids under 12 on PostTrak.
The end-game results with these Disney pics is to make new fans with the kids, and continue to pull in the old. Simba was close to evenly split, with 48% under 25, 52% over 25. Women are driving most of the business, with 58% females overall, 60% Moms to 40% dads, Females over 25 at 36% the biggest demo, and even more under-12 girls than boys, 58% to 42%. Another big quad was 18-34, which showed up at 48%. Diversity demos were 42% Caucasian, 23% Hispanic, 22% African American, and 13% Asian/Other. Simba was strong everywhere, but his box office pride lands were in the West and the South. 3D has driven 18% of business to date, with Imax and PLF screens repping 21% (some of which are included in the 3D number).
If you want to know how the original 1994 Lion King was able to trigger such awesome grosses ($40.9M wide opening, initial $312.8M domestic gross before re-releases), it’s because Disney trailered the film’s opening 4 1/2 minute “Circle of Life” sequence before their movies. This was, of course, all before the social media era. Disney made sure that exhibition continually ran that sequence before their movies in 1993-94, and it kicked off with the Nov. 12 release of The Three Musketeers. CinemaCon attendees last year were the first to see that updated opening from Favreau, and each push for Lion King was carefully strategic. One rival studio exec at one point this summer remarked to me suspiciously, “Have you noticed that most of the trailers don’t include singing?” But Disney had nothing to hide here. It was just that each song from the film –all classics with Elton John/Tim Rice’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” a best song Oscar winner–were part of a step-by-step marketing campaign.
Similar to exciting moviegoers on Thanksgiving Day back in 2014 with the Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer, Disney did so again last Turkey Day with the first teaser for The Lion King, which, for a bit, held a record with the most views over a 24-hour period online with 224.6M before Avengers: Endgame upset that record with 289M back in December.
Says RelishMix about huge positive word of mouth, “Fans are as excited this week about the opening of Lion King as they were back in November. For many, just like The Incredibles or other classics in the Disney canon, The Lion King is one of their favorites. They’re sharing their favorite memories of the 1994 film, and their hopes that Favreau’s version lives up to their expectations. In fact, the comparisons to the 1994 animated original are common in positive skewing discussion. And those folks who are ‘all in’ for this film indicate several different reasons for their excitement, ranging from the cast to the music to ‘the scene’ that really affected them back in 1994. More recent elements driving discussion is the buzz surrounding the visual effects and ‘feel’ of this movie – as in, fans can’t wait to see it and debate how it compares.”
Estimates as of Saturday morning:
BOX OFFICE FOR jULY 19-21
Friday Midday Update: It was clear Lion King was going to be big, but just how much was the question. We were all so scared about the wacky tracking marketplace this summer where IP overindexed and under-delivered at the B.O.. At this point in time Simba is looking at an $81M estimated Friday and a weekend that’s north of $186M, but could even go higher at north of $200M. Anything over $169.1M is a record opening for July, beating Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 from 2011. Why the big swing? When pics are this high, it’s any distrib chief’s guess how high a movie like this could go.
ComScore/Screen Engine PostTrak numbers from last night are 4 stars for all audiences with parents liking it more than kids under 12, 4 1/2 to 3 1/2 stars. Females watched more than men, 56% to 44%. Same percents for moms vs. fathers in terms of audience make-up. Females over 25 are the biggest quad at 29%, females under 25 at 27% with males under/over 25 at 22% each.
Sony’s Spider-Man Far From Home is seeing $6.3M in its third Friday, -53% with a third weekend of $21M, -54%, and a running total of $319.5M by Sunday — very close to overtaking Homecoming‘s $334.2M. Disney’s Toy Story 4 is eyeing $13.4M in weekend 5, -36% for a running tally by Sunday of $374.3M. More updates later.
FRIDAY AM UPDATE after Thursday night exclusive: Disney is reporting that The Lion King‘s Thursday night rang up $23M. We already knew last night that the Jon Favreau-directed movie was the top preview night for a Disney reboot of an animation title, beating Beauty and the Beast‘s $16.3M Thursday night. Lion King‘s loot Thursday night also beats the preview night of Disney’s Incredibles 2 which grossed $18.5M, which represented 26% of its $71.2M opening day and a 3-day of $182.6M.
EXCLUSIVE: We’re hearing from non-Disney sources that Jon Favreau’s The Lion King reboot is doing some smashing business tonight with an estimated $22M-$25M off showtimes that largely started at 6PM (there were 5pm select fan screenings). Again with these estimates, sometimes they can fall outside the range we’re hearing from sources, but overall, it’s a great start.
While that’s not a July Thursday night preview record —Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s midnight shows of $43.5M looks to still hold this record– Lion King‘s Thursday night cash stash is on the low-end above Captain Marvel‘s $20.2M (which repped 33% of its opening day Friday for a $153.4M opening) and on the high-end just under Black Panther‘s $25.2M (33% of Friday, for a $202M 3-day opening).
Bringing tonight within comparisons of Disney live-action adaptations of its classic toons, Lion King is already burying Beauty and the Beast‘s $16.3M Thursday night preview which yielded 26% of its opening day for a $174.7M opening. Heading into the weekend tracking estimates were between $180M-$192M. If Lion King clicks past Deathly Hallows 2‘s $169.1M, then it’s the best domestic opening ever for July. One rival studio marketing executive marveled today, “This film has had a 98 total awareness on tracking for a long time — that’s unheard of!” First choice for The Lion King is leaning heavier toward females than males.
Further evidence that Simba is bound to have a royal weekend: Fandango reports that the Favreau film is the second best pre-seller of 2019 behind Avengers: Endgame. Bad reviews with that Rotten Tomatoes of 56%? Well, Lion King is just all Hakuna Matata about all that when it comes to RT impacting its B.O. prospects.
Tomorrow, Lion King opens in 4,725 theaters becoming the widest domestic theatrical release of all-time, unseating Avengers: Endgame‘s first weekend footprint of 4,662. Abroad Lion King has already roared past $100M, a bulk of that from China. We’ll have more updates for you in the morning.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.