I don’t remember if I saw The Lion King in theaters or not.
[EDIT: My mother has texted and informed me that The Lion King was in fact the first film I was ever taken to in a theater. Clearly I was too coked up at the time to remember. That’s comforting to know for two reasons: A) Means my first flick in a theater was a good one, and B) that my parents weren’t taking me into a theater when I was a pre-6-year-old screaming asshole.]
Regardless of whether or not I caught it on the big screen it was certainly ever-present in my childhood, as it is was for any kid my age and any parent who’d crapped out a child at pretty much any point in the 80s. I watched it at home on my VHS, saw it at school when we had a video day, and even now I don’t know many women my age who aren’t prone to breaking it out for a good weeknight watch. An undeniable phenomenon, its $788m mid-90s total is mammoth for any family film, but what’s even more impressive is that it represents the highest attendance numbers for any animated movie possibly ever, and certainly in the last half-century or so. It’s also got the best (adjusted) theater average of all time, if we’re digging into silly statistics.
I’m not sure where The Lion King sits in the under-10 public consciousness these days, but I have a feeling it’s not diminished much. Even if it has, a massive weekend of parents taking their kids to see a 3D re-release of the film is going to make it huge again. After years and years of sitting though crappy CGI animated animal films and silly live-action hybrids, parents are likely to jump at the chance to drag their kids to a movie they’ll enjoy and, more importantly, that they think their kids should enjoy. Combine that with nostalgia trips from the twenty-somethings and you’ve got the promise of one of the most successful re-releases ever, perhaps. Toy Story/Toy Story 2 made about $12.5m on its re-release opening weekend, and that was on 600 fewer screens, and with the promise that those same parents would have to shell out for a trip to see Toy Story 3 almost immediately. Here its a one-and-done trip after over a month of barren cinemas for kids.
For those with no need for a nostalgic trip to Pride Rock, there is of course Drive. Likely my favorite film of the year, it’s on the road to landing the top spot on a lot of other viewer’s lists as well. How well the art-film/action-film will fare with wider audiences is tough to call, but they’ve been pushing it hard (if not with an ideal campaign). There’s familiar faces though, fast cars, and the promise of criminal doings and exhilarating action. Pair that with the good reviews (the details of which will help draw in the discerning) that all lead to a nice juicy RT aggregate score of 93% (which will bring in the skimmers). For my part? It’s a five-out-of-five film and you should go see it without hesitation. Beyond that, I can’t help you. This won’t make huge money, but it will do modestly well, and if the European sensibilities don’t kill the word-of-mouth, it could have legs through October.
I think The Help and Contagion will hold off the new films, even as The Help finally starts to dwindle out of the top 5, and Contagion only holds on modestly well. Contagion should stick around in the top 3 and still make a decent haul off of its star-power and decent reactions, but it didn’t quite catch on like the virus it follows. There needs to be a decent overseas push for it to be a success of any kind, as it’s still a $60m picture, and it will be lucky to make that back in the states. I think in the long haul Soderbergh made the right call pitching and making this the way he did.
Straw Dogs and some Sarah Jessica Parker film (that I quite literally had not heard of until I sat down to write this) also debut this weekend, but either one of them could end up getting bumped out of the top 5. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the Sex and the City light film, but only by a shred. Neither will catch on, and there are too many good movies out there to be seen to spill much ink (or flash many pixels rather) on them. It’s a shame they couldn’t just… you know, not be so that Warrior could rank a little higher in its second weekend and maintain some exposure.
We’ll break it down on Monday (since sickness and computer problems didn’t eat the column this week). That’ll be the fun part.
The Lion King ….. $18,000,000
Drive ….. $12,000,000
Contagion …. $11,000,000
The Help ….. $6,500,000
I Don’t Know How She Does It ….. $6,400,000
Straw Dogs …. $6,000,000