What does the lion king say to the god of box offices? I’m coming for you!
The Lion King opened with about $191.8million in just the first week of its release and it’s not much of a surprise. With the likes Beyonce, Childish Gabino, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, dominating the cast, it was simply bound to happen.
As you should know by now, the numbers we all dissect on Sunday morning are estimates, taken from the Friday gross, the Saturday gross and a mathematical calculation for what the film will earn on Sunday. The estimates tend to be pretty darn close to the final figures, but there can be some wiggle room in either direction when you’re dealing with a massive weekend gross.
Moreover, if they can get away with it, it is in a studio’s interest to undershoot the weekend estimate. That way they can get “Look how well it opened!” news coverage on Sunday and then “Wow, it opened even bigger than estimated!” coverage on Monday. For that matter, a $192 million Friday-to-Sunday gross is only 3.7% higher than a $185 million gross, so it’s not like Disney severely undersold itself.
However, this does put the gross just above the $191.2 million debut weekend, in 2015, of Walt Disney’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yes, it took down a few records in the process. The Lion King scored the biggest “not a PG-13” opening weekend of all-time, as well as the biggest debut for an animated movie. Yes, we are counting it as animated, and it indeed opened above the $182 million launch of Incredibles 2 last summer.
It also scored, sans inflation, the biggest opening weekend ever for the month of July, coming in way ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II ($169 million in 2011). When accounting for inflation, it’s in third place, between The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million in 2012/$186.3 million adjusted), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($135 million in 2006/$186.5 million adjusted) and Harry Potter 7.2 ($192 million adjusted) and The Dark Knight ($158 million in 2008/$199 million adjusted).
So, yes, that extra $7 million made the difference, for what it’s worth, between being the fifth-biggest inflation-adjusted July launch and the third-biggest inflation-adjusted July launch. Moreover, that extra few bucks put it ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest on the adjusted openers list. That means, even when accounting for inflation (if not necessarily accounting for 3-D, IMAX, Dolby, etc. bumps), The Lion King scored Walt Disney’s biggest homegrown opening of all time.
By that, we mean it’s the Mouse House’s biggest opening weekend ever that wasn’t either a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie or a Star Wars flick. It’s the eighth-biggest opening weekend of all time, sans inflation. And with the clear exception of Universal’s Jurassic World, which opened with a then-record-breaking $208 million in June of 2015, every other movie above it is either an MCU film (Black Panther, The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) or a Star Wars (The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens).
There honestly are not many scenarios where the film crashes and burns and struggles to approach top-tier grosses. Even a run like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II ($381 million from a $169 million launch on this weekend in 2011) gets The Lion King to $431 million. Even that would be above the likes of Frozen ($400 million in 2013), The Lion King ($422 million counting the 3-D reissue in 2011) and Captain Marvel ($426 million in 2018).
The new lion king may not get that ‘great’ reviews but it’s a fan favorite and it seems like that’s one of those things you can put money on. Fans are still rushing to the theaters to still catch a glimpse of the live-action and it is likely to break more box office records in the future.