If The Lion King 3D matches the 2.4x weekend-to-total multiplier of the Toy Story double-feature, then we're looking at $71 million. That accomplishes three goals. First of all, it's already surpassed the $339 million domestic gross of Finding Nemo, which means that The Lion King is now the biggest-grossing non-sequel cartoon of all-time. Second of all, a $73 million total will be JUST enough to get The Lion King over the $400 million mark, which just looks prettier. And finally, with $12 million in overseas added to the new domestic total of $357 million, the worldwide gross for The Lion King now sits at $825 million (Up yours, Shrek the Third!). If this re-release does $73 million in America and $32 million overseas (a reasonable guess), then ends with $890 million and leapfrogs over Finding Nemo ($867 million) and most importantly Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($886 million). The $919 million worldwide total of Shrek 2 is the one Disney really wants to surpass (as it would mean that The Lion King and Toy Story 3 are the two biggest cartoons of all-time), but that seems unlikely, especially if this release does indeed close out after two weeks (doubtful...).
On its face, this big opening tells us two very important things. First of all, despite what everyone wants to tell you, 3D is not dead (they are WRONG and WRONG!). As always, it's the movie not the format. There was a genuine interest for families to see The Lion King (arguably the most beloved of the Era-of-Katzenberg cartoons), and the 3D conversion was just a cherry on top. Second of all, it does refute the notion that 'audiences don't want to see movies in theaters anymore'. We had a $30 million opening for a 17-year old cartoon that most of the paying consumers probably own on a terrific-looking DVD that will look just fine on their 50" televisions. This does bode well for the upcoming 3D converted releases of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace and Titanic, as well as the threatened 3D conversions for Top Gun and Ghostbusters (better than Ghostbusters III, I suppose). We can argue that it's not necessarily a good thing that audiences seem willing to see popular older movies in a theater over newer films (why remake everything when you can just turn the originals into 3D and re-release them?!), but people ARE willing to head out to the theaters if the product is there.
Also of note is that this opening may-well see the revival of Disney's abandoned practice of re-releasing their 'classics' into theaters on a somewhat regular basis. That practice was stopped after the re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1993, as widespread availability of these titles on VHS negated the 'see it now or wait!' factor (also, the growing popularity of Disney's new cartoons negated the financial need for these re-releases). Yes, Disney re-released The Little Mermaid in November of 1997, but that was more about kneecapping the opening weekend of Fox's Anastasia one week later (and, as a bonus, getting The Little Mermaid over the $100 million mark). As long as Disney keeps their expectations in check (I.E. -- Hercules 3D is not going to open to $30 million), there is no reason they can't revive the re-release patterns of old. The audience is clearly there and willing.
The final new release was the Sarah Jessica Parker working-mother comedy I Don't Know How She Does It. The film pulled in just $4.4 million, which is not the least bit surprising. First of all, the concept (a busy working mother struggles to juggle work and family) was probably pretty novel in 1981, but it feels almost insulting that this movie is being made in 2011 (or sad that so little has changed). Second of all, the title IS probably pretty insulting to any number of working mothers who 'do it' without any fanfare. Third of all, even if we argue that the film does appeal to its demographic (professional women with families), it is just this very target group that would probably be too busy to schedule a movie night on opening weekend (this is also, ironically, what hurt Sex and the City 2, which stupidly opened over the family-centered Memorial Day holiday in 2010). Finally, Sarah Jessica Parker is not, and has never been an 'open it by herself' movie star. I don't mean that as an insult. Before she joined Sex and the City in 1998, she was trying to parlay her cult popularity into genuine movie stardom. Sure, I fell in lust with her after LA Story in 1991, but she was unknown by most, only beloved by well, me, Rosie O'Donnell, David Letterman, and eventually Matthew Broderick. After the show ended in 2003, she found success in The Family Stone (a moving ensemble piece that slowly found its audience over Christmas 2005) and Failure To Launch (a 2006 romcom with Matthew McConaughy). Other than those two hits, only the Sex and the City films have brought box office glory. She may be a pop-culture icon and a better actress than she's sometimes given credit for, but she's not a face-on-the-poster movie star.
That's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend when Brad Pitt's Moneyball (review on Wednesday) squares off against Taylor Lautner's Abduction (why I want to see it anyway...) and the Jason Statham/Robert De Niro/Clive Owen romantic comedy The Killer Elite. Also opening is A Dolphin Tale.
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