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Box Office Report: The Lion King Outshines Its Competition

Hi, ShockYa readers! Monique Jones here–I’m taking over the “Box Office Report” for this week and next week for Joe Belcastro, who is on a well-deserved vacation. Now, with the housekeeping out of the way, let’s get into some box office reporting, shall we?

Before we get into the studio estimates, I just want to say that there’s been a small trend in studio estimates as of late. Three movies in particular, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Help” and this week’s number one, “The Lion King,” broke initial studio predictions. There are bigger ramifications as to why this is important, but I’ll get to that in the analysis. Here are this week’s studio estimates:

1. “The Lion King” (in 3D)–$29,300,000

2. “Contagion”–$14,480,000

3. “Drive”–$11,019,000

4. “The Help”–$6,438,000

5. “Straw Dogs”–$5,000,000

6. “I Don’t Know How She Does It”–$4,502,000

7. “The Debt”–$2,946,000

8. “Warrior”–$2,770,000

9. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”–$2,625,000

10. “Colombiana”–$2,300,000

Analysis:

As I said, I think there’s a bigger underlying message in why “Rise,” “The Help,” and “The Lion King” have broken studio predictions and have become the runaway hits of the year. I think people are clamoring for well-told stories, and these three films have the right amount of heart, technical expertise, and sheer enjoyment to make them endearing to fans. This is especially apparent in “The Lion King,” a 17-year-old movie made when 2D was the height of animation technology. The film was only expected to make about $15 million at the box office, not what it ended up taking in. One would think that only those nostalgic for their childhoods would be going to the theaters to see this film, but entire families are going to see it, showing not only how ingrained the classic film is in American culture, but that a well-made film with an extraordinarily-told story will draw people in droves, no matter how old it is.

The top three of the box-office results are the three that have the strongest stories. All of the top three films have been lauded by critics and audiences alike, so “The Lion King,” “Contagion” and “Drive” being in the top three aren’t any surprise. “The Help” is still surprisingly strong at the box office; it’s release date was August 10, and the film still hasn’t dropped below number four. This shows that word-of-mouth is really the best marketing ploy. Word-of-mouth is also another reason why “The Help” and “Rise” have had such success; “The Lion King” is relying less on word-of-mouth and more on people making a type of movie pilgrimage to see one of the greatest Disney films how it was meant to be seen–in the theater. Also, the fact that it’s only going to be in theaters for two weeks doesn’t hurt, either.

Flop Alert: I would have to believe with the type of star wattage Sarah Jessica Parker has, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” was expected to do much better than it’s doing. It’s the first week of release for the film, and it’s premiering at number six. That’s not too good, especially when a 17-year-old movie is at number one. Again, people expected “The Lion King” to be a big draw, but “I Don’t Know How She Does It” was probably expected to do much better than a film that hadn’t been in theaters for years. The “Sex and the City” crowd was expected to come out to this film, but they didn’t. I would have to think that the crowd got split between going to see “I Don’t Know” and “The Help,” and that, along with the uneven, unfunny and sometimes mean-spirited quality the movie has, helped sink what should have been a floating ship with the wind in its sails.

Sleeper Hit: Weirdly enough, I’m going to have to say that “The Lion King” was the sleeper hit of this week. It’s becoming a theme with this post, but everyone expected “The Lion King” to do well, but not as well as its doing. The re-release has become almost like an force of nature against the other films, even the stronger ones. The film seems to have filled a void in people–either a void people didn’t know they had or studios didn’t know existed. Speaking honestly, “The Lion King” was the first Disney film I’d seen as a kid, and it stuck with me immensely. As a kid, watching what happened to Mufasa was like seeing my own parent die (don’t pretend you don’t feel something during that scene). With the movie hitting me that hard, how could I not go see it again? Now, just think of thousands of millions of people thinking that same thing.

I don’t think Disney would extend the film’s theatrical release, but I wouldn’t be surprised. They’re probably scrambling right now to figure out how to milk the theatrical release’s success even further. But what I’d really like to happen is for the success of “The Lion King” to truly trigger the true return of Disney’s 2D animation and 2D animated films in general.

The Lion King

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Monique Jones blogs about race and culture in entertainment, particularly movies and television. You can read her articles at Racialicious, and her new site, COLOR . You can also listen to her new podcast, What would Monique Say.

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