There really aren’t any sober domestic projections on Disney’s The Lion King: Many see the Jon Favreau-directed remake heading for a record July opening, feasibly toppling 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.1M).
Even though Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home exceeded estimates with a $185M 6-day opening, some analysts’ still have shell shock over tracking’s track record this summer for over-projecting branded IP, only for such fare to under-deliver at the B.O.. We understand that a leading tracking service is seeing $180M stateside for The Lion King, while others believe the over/under is around Disney’s 2017 live action take on Beauty and the Beast which opened to $174.7M, which would still be a record July start at 4,500 theaters.
Even if The Lion King comes in low at $140M, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of moviegoing as we know it, nor is the marketplace in a funk, nor would such a start be considered a failure for what we hear is a $260M-plus budget enhanced CGI pic. The fandom for this Disney vault classic is immense, so much so, that it’s expected to trample the sour 61% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. Previews start Thursday at 6pm with select fan event screenings at 5pm. Simba’s theatrical paw print in U.S./Canada includes 3,300 3D locations, 400 Imax, 750 premium large format screens and 225 D-Box/4D sites.
By Sunday, global on The Lion King is bound to reach $450M+. Simba already opened to a $54.2M debut last weekend in China and that country is expected to clock just over $100M by Sunday. The rest of his rollout begins tomorrow offshore in all markets save Italy and Japan which will go in August. For new markets, the film is lining up in the $160M-$170M range, with potential upside taking it higher (add in China, and that range is at $260M-$270M). In order to notch a global July opening record, Lion King would need to surpass Deathly Hallows 2‘s $483.2M.
A $450M start for The Lion King (including China’s early bow) isn’t out of the realm of possibility when you consider that Sony’s 10-day global on Spider-Man: Far From Home, which also led with China first, racked up $580M over that time frame worldwide. Such a global opening would also be the best start ever for a Disney remake of one of its vault toons, beating Beauty and the Beast‘s $357M worldwide bow.
The only potential hiccup in China could be the release of local movie Looking Up which launches in earnest on Thursday after several days of previews. This is the first local title with any traction in an upside-down China summer, and has good social scores. But Lion King also has solid social metrics and saw great Saturday/Sunday holds during its debut. It did about $7M on Monday, to boot.
In international box office comparisons, 2016’s The Jungle Book, also from Favreau, did $108M in the like-for-like new markets and at adjusted rates (this excludes China). Beauty And The Beast did $157M using the same formula. Sources believe that Lion King will play closer to Beauty and the Beast overall, and very likely exceed it. In the U.S./Canada, Lion King is skewing more female than male, similar to Aladdin. Jungle Book’s ultimate top grossing markets were China, the UK, India, Japan and Australia. Beauty and the Beast did best in Japan, UK, China, Brazil and Korea.
Pre-sales are looking robust in many markets, including the U.S., Canada and South Korea. Latin America of course leans in to family fare and there could be upside for TLK in Europe. The Rotten Tomatoes score domestically doesn’t always translate to international (see Aladdin, Venom, Aquaman) and the thinking is love for the property will carry through.
Lion King opens on Wednesday in Korea, France, Germany and Australia. Thursday adds Russia and Brazil with the UK (where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attended the London premiere this weekend), Spain and Mexico joining the pride on Friday.
In terms of offshore promotion, ‘Art of The Lion King‘ exhibits featuring the legacy of the original animation and the technology behind the process for the new film were held in theater lobbies and galleries across several markets including Australia, Japan, UK and Mexico. Also in Mexico, Favreau visited for a press and fan event, and a custom poster in the style of a Lucha Libre bout between Simba and Scar was featured in areas near Arena Coliseo and Arena Mexico in Mexico City.
In Spain, a silhouette of Simba, in the style of cultural icon Osborne Bull, will be placed on roadsides in Madrid; a TV spot integrating The Lion King and La Liga will air on Disney Channel Spain; Korea’s Samsung Lions baseball team dedicated its June 30 game to the movie with themed uniforms while the stadium played the trailer and interactive quiz games on the jumbotron. A capella group Harmonize performed “Circle of Life.”
In partnership with Kenya Tourism Board and Brussels Airlines, 26 media and influencers from France, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Spain, Germany and Italy traveled to Kenya to visit Maasai Mara and Aberdare, and interviewed production designer James Chinlund.
Along with having been to Mexico City and London, Favreau will head to Japan before the film opens there and will be at a premiere event celebrating the South Africa release on July 18 in Johannesburg. He attended the royal premiere in London last weekend.
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