Will The Lion King pull an Aladdin, a Dumbo, or a Beauty and the Beast when it comes to Disney remake box office? It's too late for the 2019 Lion King to pull a Jungle Book when it comes to impressing critics.
If I were to eliminate one of the first three House Hunters-style, I'd say The Lion King will not suffer Dumbo's fate. That film "only" made $352 million worldwide; it also had disappointing reviews (46%), but in a different way than The Lion King, and Dumbo also had lackluster reviews from fans (52% audience score). That film was apparently a little too different for viewers in general.
There's potential for The Lion King to be like Aladdin, which has made $960 million worldwide so far -- a record for Will Smith's career -- after getting its own lukewarm reviews from critics but raves from fans.
But I'm still thinking The Lion King has a chance for Beauty and the Beast greatness. That 2017 movie made $1.26 billion worldwide -- the most so far for any Disney live-action remake -- and even though it was decidedly "fresh" for critics at 71%, the praise wasn't exactly effusive.
I still see The Lion King topping $1 billion worldwide, but the lackluster reviews aren't going to help when it comes to drawing in people without kids. This will be THE Lion King for a younger generation, but I myself don't feel the need to rush out and see it, at least not in the theater. Unlike Aladdin, with a blue Genie Will Smith, the new Lion King doesn't seem to have much that's ... new. And I can listen to Beyoncé and Donald Glover sing the new songs without seeing the movie. If fans come out of the theater absolutely gushing -- like an A+ CinemaScore -- I may change my mind.
Also, Beauty and the Beast was the only Disney remake opening in 2017, which is certainly not the case in jam-packed 2019. There was huge anticipation for Beauty, with Emma Watson in the lead role in a real live-action version of the animated classic. There's huge anticipation for The Lion King too, but it's not like you're going to see Beyoncé on screen. It's all still animals, just presented with new technology.
A couple of months ago, Box Office Pro projected The Lion King to have a domestic opening around $200 million and a total domestic gross of $650 million. That's just domestic. And it's huge! For example, Aladdin currently has a domestic gross of $331.5 million. It's at $960 million worldwide thanks to $628.7M from foreign markets, per Box Office Mojo. Also, Beauty and the Beast "only" made $504 million at the domestic box office, so if The Lion King can really make $650M -- or anything even close -- it has a solid shot of grossing far more than Beauty.
And that's why I'm still confident The Lion King will not only hit $1 billion, it'll blow past it.
The Lion King already opened in China, and Variety reported it's on track to be one of the most successful Disney remakes there. Early projections for China -- the second biggest market after the U.S./Canada -- put a potential run of The Lion King around $170 million. If so, that would triple Aladdin's $53.3 million take in China. It would also be eight times what Dumbo made at $21.9 million. It would also be a lot more than Beauty and the Beast's $89.2 million. It would even edge out Jon Favreau's previous Disney remake, The Jungle Book, which made a huge $150 million in China in 2016.
The Jungle Book also neared $1 billion worldwide, which was a surprise in 2016. But that movie got rave reviews from critics -- a 95% fresh rating. That's not something Jon Favreau is enjoying with The Lion King, which currently has a 59% rating from 123 reviews.
The only two "live-action" remakes to top $1B so far have been Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland, which made $1 billion in 2010, also with HUGE help from the international box office. But that film is so different from the animated Disney version it's not quite in the same comparison league as the new Beauty and Lion King films.
Next weekend will be huge for The Lion King. Opening expectations are sky-high, so if it doesn't reach $150-$200 million, it's probably going to be seen as "underperforming." (No wonder Jon Favreau was so nervous at the premiere!) Also, we have to see how audiences feel. Fans loved Aladdin a lot more than critics, and I have a feeling that will be the case with The Lion King as well, but we'll see.
What do you think? Will The Lion King join The Billion Club? If so, by how much? If not, how much do you think it will make?
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Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.