3-D "Lion King" reigns at top of movie box office

Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:07pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Lion King" is back on top of the movie jungle seventeen years after the film first hit theaters.

A 3-D version of the 1994 Walt Disney Co animated classic reclaimed the box office throne with a strong $29.3 million in domestic ticket sales over the weekend, studio estimates released on Sunday showed.

The three-day total for North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters was more than double studio forecasts and easily pushed thriller "Contagion," last weekend's winner, to second place.

"The Lion King" is one of the most successful animated films of all time, grossing $784 million at theaters worldwide before the 3-D debut. It also reigns as the top-performing home entertainment release ever. The film tells the story of a lion cub named Simba who returns from exile to claim the kingdom once led by his father.

The re-release appealed to parents and grandparents who saw the film years ago and brought their children and grandchildren to see it in a new format, said Dave Hollis, executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution at Disney, linking it to the movie's "circle of life" theme.

"I'm very pleasantly surprised" with the opening weekend success, Hollis said, adding that Disney will consider extending the movie's run beyond the planned two-week limited engagement.

Hollis said 92 percent of filmgoers opted to see the new 3D version. Theaters also showed the film in traditional 2D. The film collected an average of $12,575 per theater in 2,330 theaters.

The movie has rung up another $12 million since the 3D version was released in international markets a month ago.   Continued...