Moviegoers chose The Lion King 3D in droves this weekend, while mostly staying away from the other three wide releases.

Break-Out Performance for ‘The Lion King 3D’

on September 19, 2011 by Daniel Garris
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While it had been expected to lead the box office this weekend thanks in part to fairly late surging online activity, Disney's The Lion King 3D still greatly exceeded expectations with a debut of $30.15 million. Without taking into account ticket price inflation, that represented the fourth largest opening weekend of all-time for the month of September. At the end of the day fans of the 1994 blockbuster film decided to choose it over this weekend's new releases in a big way (even with higher 3D ticket prices to boot), as The Lion King 3D had no problem out-grossing the combined debuts of FilmDistrict's Drive, Sony's Straw Dogs and The Weinstein Company's I Don't Know How She Does It. After the relativity soft domestic performances of Cars 2 and Winnie the Pooh this summer, The Lion King 3D comes as a very welcome surprise for Disney. Including re-issue grosses, the lifetime domestic total for The Lion King currently stands at $358.69 million.

New releases took a hit from The Lion King 3D this weekend, but that wasn't the case for Warner's Contagion. The Steven Soderbergh directed film starring Matt Damon fell just 35 percent from last weekend to take second place with $14.55 million. That represented a very nice second weekend hold and is a good sign for the film's holding power going forward. Contagion has grossed $44.26 million through ten days of release, placing it 15 percent ahead of the pace of The Adjustment Bureau (which fell 45 percent in its second weekend).

Drive registered a third-place debut of $11.34 million. The critically acclaimed Nicolas Winding Refn directed film starring Ryan Gosling opened in line with its wide-ranging expectations. While Drive is generating quite the following with critics and some moviegoers, it also seems to be driving away other moviegoers at the same time as it earned a C- rating from CinemaScore and its per-location average of $3,929 was by no means Earth shattering. With that in mind, it remains a big question mark as to whether or not the film will be able to hold up well going forward. Even the film's opening weekend to Friday of 2.83 to 1 doesn't offer much of an answer, as that figure on its own is neither a good nor a bad sign when it comes to potential holding power for a film aimed at adults.

Straw Dogs and I Don't Know How She Does It both turned out to be even larger than expected disappointments this weekend. Both films had been widely expected to open modestly (below the $10 million mark), but Straw Dogs was ultimately only able to register $5.12 million while I Don't Know How She Does It brought in an even softer $4.40 million. The uphill battle for both films was made even steeper by the break-out performance of The Lion King 3D. Screen Gems is normally very dependable with genre fare, but Straw Dogs proved to be a rare miss for them. On the other hand, The Weinstein Company has obviously had a very tough year following the Oscar success of The King's Speech. I Don't Know How She Does It represents the sixth consecutive disappointing wide release for the studio.

It was also a very tough weekend for Lionsgate's Warrior. After a lackluster start last weekend, the critically acclaimed mixed martial arts film fell five spots and a significant 45 percent to land in eighth place with $2.86 million. The film's ten-day total stands at $10.02 million. Given the disappointing performances of Warrior and Straw Dogs, and the modest performance of Drive thus far, mainstream audiences simply aren't in the mood for lower profile and darker fare at the present time.

Follow @DanielBOXOFFICE on Twitter for additional box office updates.

Tags: Drive, Contagion, The Lion King 3D, Straw Dogs, I Don't Know How She Does It
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