Critics can't rain on The Lion King's parade as it blew away expectations with $180+ million debut.
Critics can’t seem to keep some movies down as the panned Lion King remake is blowing expectations out of the water. There was much talk about how the ‘Rotten’ score on Rotten Tomatoes was going to affect the beloved 90s animated classic’s remake. As the movie execs of most of the studios will tell you, Rotten Tomatoes does more harm than good for business, but it seems The Lion King is critic-proof.
If the numbers hold then, we will be looking at the second biggest opening of 2019 and the ninth biggest North American debut of all time. As of now, The Lion King is expected to earn $185 million which will be enough to sit over the Incredibles 2, currently holding the ninth spot.
Now, expectations were tempered at both Disney and box office analysts as the highest they were willing to go with The Lion King was $150 million. After the reviews came in that number seemed even more unlikely, but it seems people want their fix of Lion King in theatre as the movie opened in more than 4,700 theatres, a domestic record.
Watch: The trailer for The Lion King remake
Jon Favreau directed the live-action remake of the 1994 animated classic, which is considered by many as the best-animated movie ever. Jon also recently remade 'The Jungle Book' for Disney, and now it feels like Jungle Book was a test run for the Disney studio heads to see how people responded to a live-action version of animals. The Jungle Book was an overwhelming success as it debuted with critical acclaim and made almost a billion-dollar at the box office. After we saw almost real 'Baghira' and 'Ballu', it was inevitable that Disney tasked someone to remake The Lion King.
Jon Favreau brought The Jungle Book to life, and it was only fitting they tasked the same person for The Lion King. Disney handed Favreau almost a hundred million more than they did for The Jungle Book. With a budget of $260 million, it seemed like Favreau perfected the motion capture as the animals looked more real than ever. The photo-realistic aspect of the movie was one of the few things critics were praising as they criticized the lack of originality, which was supposed to be a criticism but it acted as more of assurance for parents as they took their whole family to experience The Lion King in theatres.
The main criticism for the original movie was the fact that Disney’s first Africa based movie had a predominantly white cast, but that was rectified in the remake as some of the biggest heavy hitters of the African American community were on hand to give voice to the characters. Donald Glover as 'Simba' and Beyonce as 'Nala' headlining a star-studded cast that included Chiwetel Ejiofor as 'Scar', Seth Rogen as 'Pumba' and Billy Eichner as 'Timon' (stole the show) and James Earl Jones as the only returning member of the original cast as 'Mufasa'.
The critics were split with the movie currently holding a 56% (not good) rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audiences seem to like it with the film getting an A from polls conducted by CinemaScore and also a four-star out of five from the surveys conducted by PostTrak. Not one group dominated the showings at the theatre with age groups coming in at almost an even split with 48% audiences being under the age of 25 and 52% of the viewers being over the age of 25. But it was mothers who were driving the business for Disney as 60% of the audiences were moms, and 40% were dads.
The marketing for the movie was on point as the cast slowly revealed parts of the film as they made rounds on talk shows, but the most significant driving force was Beyonce as right on the premiere of the movie, an original song by Beyonce was released which only build up hype. Beyonce transcends age groups as she speaks to people of all walks of life and all age groups and Donald Glover was and still is a darling of the internet for a long, long time. Putting both of them front and center was a masterstroke by Disney and also the fact they hid all the songs until the final run-up to the movie was a marketing genius by the studio.
With decent legs, and no competition for two weeks straight, it is not a far-fetched idea of The Lion King crossing a billion dollar at the box office. And with Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker still to come, it seems the top 10 highest-grossing movies of 2019 will be filled with Disney flicks. After the acquisition of Fox, the only thing that can bring down Disney is Disney itself.