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Weekend Wrap-Up: Lion King is the Driving Force at the Box Office

September 19th, 2011

There were three new wide releases this past weekend, but it was a re-release, The Lion King, that dominated at the box office. This success is really good news, because all three new wide releases, Drive, I Don't Know How She Does It, and Straw Dogs, missed expectations. The overall movie industry generated just over $101 million this weekend, compared to $82 million last weekend, which is a 24% increase. This weekend last year, the overall box office was just under $101 million, so yes, 2011 squeezed out a win this week, even if it was by less than 1%. Year-to-date, 2011 has earned $7.70 billion, compared to $8.01 billion it earned last year. We are going to need to see some big wins over the coming weeks if 2011 is going to have a shot at closing that gap by the end of December.

The Lion King topped all but the most optimistic expectations earning $30.15 million over the weekend. To put this into perspective, that's the fourth biggest September weekend of all time. It's also the third biggest debut for Disney this year, so you can bet they are working on transforming many of their other hits into 3D for theatrical re-release. Meanwhile, the opening pushes the film's running tally to $358.69 million, so there's a very real chance the film could cross the $400 million milestone as a result of this re-release. It depends on its legs and if the studio decides to extend its run, which I think they will.

Contagion also beat the high end of expectations with $14.55 million over the weekend for a total of $44.26 million after two. Its strong reviews are clearly helping the film's legs, while it is now on pace to top its reported production budget of $60 million as early as this time next week. Unless it bombs internationally, it will reach profitability before the home market.

Drive struggled somewhat earning third place with $11.34 million over the weekend. Its reviews are incredible, but its per theater average was middling at just under $4000. It won't have to slip too much next weekend to convince theater owners to drop the film relatively soon, especially with stronger competition opening in October. On the other hand, the film reportedly cost just $13 million to make, so it won't need to stick around too long to earn a profit.

Amazingly, The Help remained in the top five earning fourth place with $6.51 million over the weekend for a total of $147.44 million after six. The film has already earned a profit, so anything it makes now is pure gravy.

Straw Dogs earned fifth place, but missed expectations with just $5.12 million. Its per theater average was only a hair over the Mendoza Line and combined with soft reviews, there's little hope with this film will have any legs at the box office. By the first full weekend in October, it will likely see its theater count decimated.

I Don't Know How She Does It couldn't do it, earning just $4.40 million during its opening weekend. Its per theater average was just $1,778, while its Tomatometer Score was just 18% positive. I would be amazed if it doesn't collapse next weekend, while it will be all but out of theaters in a few weeks.

Looking in on the sophomore class, Warrior did reasonably well down 45%, but after a slow start, it was still down to just $2.86 million over the weekend. So far it has made $10.00 million after 10 days of release, which is a disappointment, but maybe it will find a more receptive audience on the home market. Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star continued its disastrous run, plummeting 72% to just $395,000 over the weekend for a total of $2.33 million after two. Had it opened with $2.33 million, it would have been a bomb.


Filed under: Weekend Box Office, The Lion King, Straw Dogs, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Warrior, Contagion, Drive, The Help, I Don't Know How She Does It