A still from the 1994's 'The Lion King.' (Disney/File)
“The Lion King” roared big for Walt Disney Co., opening with $185 million in weekend sales at North America theaters and delivering a long-awaited boost to the slumping domestic box office.
The live-action remake of the 1994 cartoon classic faced no serious obstacles in its quest for No. 1. Competing family movies like “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Toy Story 4,” also a Disney feature, have been in theaters for weeks. Analysts were forecasting $185 million to $190 million in weekend sales for the new picture, while the studio expected about $175 million. Either way, “The Lion King” is one of the top debuts of the year.
“The Lion King” features the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen and Beyonce. It overcame less-than-enthusiastic reviews and helped cement Disney’s remarkable domination of the box office this year.
Buoyed by movies like “Avengers: Endgame,” “Captain Marvel” and “Toy Story 4,” Disney headed into the weekend with a 35 percent share of this year’s domestic market, or $2.17 billion in revenue. That’s more than double its nearest competitor, Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal.
The big take for “The Lion King” gives theater operators an opportunity to climb out of a hole. Sales were down 8.6 percent for the year through July 14, but Box Office Pro was predicting revenue for the top 10 films this weekend could soar as much as 68 percent. Shares of the largest theater operator, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., rose 9 percent on Friday after an analyst said the drop in the stock was “overdone.”