Monday, September 26, 2011

3-D version of 'Lion King' to reign at box office [3Dvideo]

After 17 years, it appears the "The Lion King" still has a mighty roar.

A 3-D version of Disney's popular 1994 animated film is hitting more than 2,000 theaters this weekend for a limited two-week engagement and is expected to debut with about $15 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

That should put the movie in a tight race for No. 1 with "Contagion," the pandemic thriller that was most popular with moviegoers last weekend, when it opened to $22.4 million.

Meanwhile, none of the three other new films bowing this weekend are expected to generate much business. "Drive," a violent crime drama starring Ryan Gosling, will likely collect about $11 million. A remake of the 1971 thriller "Straw Dogs" and "I Don't Know How She Does It," a romantic comedy led by Sarah Jessica Parker, will probably each only sell between $7 million and $9 million worth of tickets.

Nearly two decades ago, "The Lion King" opened to $40.9 million during its first weekend in wide release. The film went on to be a global blockbuster, raking in $788.2 million worldwide by the end of its run. It sold more home entertainment units than any film in Disney's history, but has not been available for purchase on DVD or VHS since 2004.

Disney has re-released its popular animated titles in 3-D before. In 2009, reformatted versions of Pixar Animation's first two "Toy Story" films came out as a double feature, opening to $12.5 million and ultimately collecting $32.3 million worldwide. And earlier this month, a 3-D conversion of "Beauty and the Beast" played at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for an exclusive two-week run to help promote the new version's DVD/Blu-ray launch in October.

"Drive," in which Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman who works as a criminal getaway driver at night, has so far had exceptionally positive reception from critics. As of Thursday morning, the film scored a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- making it the 10th best-reviewed picture of the year.

The action-heavy movie is so far generating the most interest from men, though some young females may be attracted to the picture due to its heartthrob of a star in Gosling. The movie was financed by Bold Films and Odd Lot Entertainment for about $15 million; FilmDistrict later purchased U.S. distribution rights.

"I Don't Know How She Does It" stars Parker as a working mother trying to balance her personal and professional duties. Not surprisingly, the film is so far appealing most to older women, many of whom are likely familiar with the star from her long-running turn on the HBO series "Sex and the City." The movie was produced by the Weinstein Co. for roughly $24 million.

Although the two films based on that television program proved to be successful at the box office, Parker has struggled to find her footing on the big screen in recent years. "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" -- her 2009 movie with Hugh Grant about a couple in a witness protection program -- did not catch on with American audiences. Of its modest $83.3 million worldwide tally, the film only collected $29.6 million in the U.S.

Another disappointment for Parker was 2008's "Smart People," a quirky dramedy that only managed $11.8 million in global ticket sales.

Meanwhile, the original "Straw Dogs" was a critical favorite but never became a blockbuster at the box office. The new version, directed by Rod Lurie, centers around a married couple who move to the deep South and are quickly threatened by locals there. A young, urban crowd is expected to show up this weekend to see the film, which was produced by Sony's Screen Gems label for about $25 million, according to producer Marc Frydman.

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