17 years after its original theatrical release in 1994, The Lion King has managed to accomplish a surprising feat: topping the box office this weekend with its 3D re-release.
While no major blockbusters were slated for release this past weekend, a few decently anticipated and even some highly praised films hit theaters alongside the King, including Drive (which earned $11 million), Straw Dogs (which took in $5 million) and I Don’t Know How She Does It (which earned $4.5 million). But Simba and his gang brought in the most moviegoers, earning an estimated $29.3 million in North America.
Disney had modest expectations for the revamped re-release that would be playing on 2,330 theaters and was intended to promote a BluRay version of the film coming out October 4, expecting to earn about $12 – 13 million.
Instead, what they got was a host of new stats. It is the first re-release to open at number one in 14 years, the last one being Return of the Jedi – Special Edition in 1997. It also become the fifth biggest September opening in history and Disney’s second biggest, coming second to 2002’s Sweet Home Alabama. And, in a year where the 3D option has often been avoided for the traditional 2D, many who saw the movie this weekend saw it through the help of their kid-sized “Simba” glasses.
Having attracted families, couples, kids, parents and, it would be no surprise to see the originally intended two-week run of the film extended given its success this past weekend. And for that, we largely have nostalgia to thank, because, really, who wanted want to watch a classic on the big screen?
The original movie opened on June 15, 1994 with an opening weekend of $41 million, going on to gross $312 million in its initial domestic release. It is also ranked as the top-grossing, hand-drawn animated film of all time.