Long Range Tracking: The Lion King Paces to Roar with July Record $180-200M+ Debut

One of this summer’s — and the year’s — most anticipated films is only two months from release, and it represents this week’s subject for our long range report.

The Lion King (2019)
Opening Weekend Range: $180 – 230 million (as of May 24, 2019)

PROS:

  • On Trailer Impact, audiences have responded with an Average Positive Interest (API) score ranging between 85 and 90 percent between last December and as recently as last weekend. By comparison, Avengers: Endgame scored 94 percent leading up to release with half as many respondents as Lion King, while Incredibles 2 averaged 86 percent last summer (again, with far fewer respondents). When tracking began in December, Lion King instantly surveyed as the top choice on the Cinema View Interest metric (pre-Endgame trailer release).
  • The original film is universally regarded as a classic for all ages, not just in animation, but cinema at-large. The movie still stands tall with critics at 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, plus a 93 percent audience score from nearly 1.3 million voters. It was the second-highest grossing film of 1994 with $312.9 million (just behind Forrest Gump‘s $329.7 million) — which adjusts to over $680 million based on estimated Q2 2019 ticket prices. Accounting for inflation, it claims the highest original run by any animated release in history outside the original run of 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (whose $67 million earnings then would now translate to over $700 million). 1941’s Fantasia ($43 million actual) adjusts to a similar estimate of $680 million with today’s prices.
  • The above figures exclude Lion King‘s very successful 2011 re-release, which earned another $94.2 million domestic. In all, it’s estimated to be among the top six ticket-sellers across all theatrical releases in the last 35 years (trailing only Jurassic Park, Titanic, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Avatar, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens), underlining expectations that this remake could be the latest generation-crossing cinematic event for those who grew up on the original and those just being introduced to the beloved story.
  • The 1994 original was nominated for four Oscars, winning two for Hans Zimmer’s original score and Elton John & Tim Rice’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, while winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) as well as two Grammys. The return of that musical team — combined with the addition of global superstar Beyoncé — is driving synergistic expectations of a late summer entertainment powerhouse across the music and movie worlds, particularly given the original’s status as one of the best-selling movie soundtracks of all-time (and tops among animated films).
  • Disney is no stronger to blockbuster success from their live action remakes in the past decade with Beauty and the Beast ($504 million domestic), The Jungle Book ($364 million), and Alice In Wonderland ($334.2 million) standing among the top three.
  • The return of Jon Favreau in the director’s seat offers further promise for the faithfulness of this reimagining after he helmed 2016’s acclaimed remake of The Jungle Book, which blew past all box office expectations to become one of the biggest family hits of the year. Noted for its incredible visual effects, Lion King is expected to again set new standards in photo-realistic animation.
  • Audiences of varying ages and backgrounds are intrigued by a diverse all-star cast leading the voice ensemble — including the aforementioned Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, John Oliver, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keegan-Michael Key, Billy Eichner, and the return of James Earl Jones in his iconic role of Mufasa.
  • When this remake’s first trailer debuted last November, it racked up an estimated 225 million views in the first 24 hours. At the time, that ranked second all-time among all studio releases — behind only Avengers: Infinity War‘s 238 million. Since then, only Avengers: Endgame (a now-record 289 million) has surpassed it. By comparison, the Beauty and the Beast trailer earned an estimated 128 million views in its first day.
  • In a recent Fandango survey, the film ranked as the most anticipated summer family film, ahead of Toy Story 4, Aladdin, and The Secret Life of Pets 2. With minimal competition through Labor Day, The Lion King has a long end-of-summer runway for staying power if it generates strong word of mouth.
  • The current July record for opening weekend belongs to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $169.2 million. Adjusted for today’s ticket prices, The Dark Knight holds the throne with over $201 million ($158.4 million originally). Based on modern comparisons, The Lion King is currently tracking to open in that range or higher.
  • If the phenomenal success of Black Panther and the Star Wars, Avengers, and Jurassic World franchises have proven anything, it’s that event cinema demand is alive and well, especially when it offers something for everyone. As the last family-friendly tentpole release before November, Lion King will have weeks of IMAX and PLF screens to drive revenue.

CONS:

  • Disney’s live action track record isn’t spot-free, as evidenced by the recent under-performance of Dumbo ($112 million domestic). Still, their successes far outweigh their misses. The just-released Aladdin may or may not end up as another cautious comparison in that vein, although its pre-release buzz was marred by mixed trailer reactions — something that hasn’t been an issue for Lion King in any measurable way.
  • Social media activity has been challenging to gauge given the film’s target family audience. While this could indicate a roadblock in capturing some of that nostalgic crowd on an event level (particularly those fatigued by the stream of Disney movies the past few years), it may otherwise simply be a byproduct of the two-month window remaining before release — a period which will see several tentpole releases (like Toy Story 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home) dominate moviegoer attention before the dog days of summer arrive.
  • Although not directly related to this film’s prospects for seemingly inevitable global success, there is some added importance for the movie to deliver a major summer run in North America after a year that began with record aspirations severely under-performed in the early months. While Endgame provided a big lift, year-to-date box office leading into Memorial Day is down 10 percent from 2018’s record pace. This summer’s second half and the end-of-year holiday season’s slate have long been viewed as integral to making up that lost ground, with The Lion King representing a significant role in that scenario.

8-Week Tracking

Release Date Title 3-Day Wide Release Tracking % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total Forecast % Chg from Last Week Estimated Location Count Distributor
5/31/2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters $54,000,000   $144,000,000   4,100 Warner Bros.
5/31/2019 Ma $24,000,000 4% $59,000,000 -2% 2,750 Universal
5/31/2019 Rocketman $39,000,000 -3% $160,000,000 -3% 3,500 Paramount
6/7/2019 Dark Phoenix $50,000,000   $118,000,000   4,000 Fox
6/7/2019 Late Night n/a   n/a   n/a Amazon Studios
6/7/2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2 $70,000,000   $245,000,000   4,300 Universal
6/14/2019 Men In Black International $39,000,000   $107,000,000     Sony / Columbia
6/14/2019 Shaft (2019) $28,000,000 -10% $79,000,000 -21%   Warner Bros.
6/21/2019 Anna n/a   n/a     Lionsgate / Summit
6/21/2019 Child’s Play (2019) $17,000,000   $42,500,000     Orion Pictures
6/21/2019 Toy Story 4 $117,000,000   $390,000,000     Disney / Pixar
6/26/2019 Annabelle Comes Home $31,000,000   $101,000,000     Warner Bros. / New Line
6/28/2019 Yesterday n/a   n/a     Universal
7/2/2019 Spider-Man: Far from Home $120,000,000   $405,000,000     Sony / Columbia / Marvel Studios
7/3/2019 Midsommar n/a   n/a     A24
7/12/2019 Crawl $18,000,000   $47,000,000     Paramount
7/12/2019 Stuber $17,500,000   $65,000,000     Fox
7/19/2019 The Lion King (2019) $201,000,000 NEW $650,000,000 NEW   Disney

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Alex Edghill & Jesse Rifkin contributed to this report

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