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Box Office Report: 'The Lion King' Earns $8.8 Million on Friday for $25 Million Weekend

Lion King
Walt Disney

Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion" holds at No. 2, followed by Ryan Gosling's "Drive"; Sarah Jessica Parker's "I Don't Know How She Does It" and Rod Lurie's "Straw Dogs" struggle.

Defying all projections, Disney’s re-release of The Lion King roared its way to a first-day gross of $8.8 million at the domestic box office and is now on course to gross as much as $25 million for the weekend.

Lion King easily claimed the top spot over three new films — Ryan Gosling starrer Drive, Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It and Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs remake.

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Drive, grossing an estimated $4 million for the day, fared the best, but couldn’t beat Warner Bros. holdover Contagion for No. 2. From Steven Soderbergh, Contagion grossed $4.6 million on Friday, and should stay in the No. 2 spot throughout the weekend with a gross of roughly $13 million.

Distributed by FilmDistrict, Drive’s opening weekend gross should come in at roughly $10 million to $11 million, while Straw Dogs and I Don’t Know How She Does It are looking at sluggish openings of $5 million to $6 million.

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While the R-rated Drive has been warmly embraced by critics, and a favorite at the Toronto and Cannes film festivals this year, it received a dismal C- CinemaScore from moviegoers turning out on Friday. The movie skewed older as expected, with 75 percent of the audience over the age of 25, but played fairly evenly among the genders. Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston also star.

Screen Gems’ Straw Dogs all but tied with DreamWorks and Participant Media's The Help for the No. 4 spot on Friday ($1.98 million versus $1.93 million, respectively), but The Help is expected to pull ahead on Saturday.

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Straw Dogs, starring Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden and Kate Bosworth, didn't fare much better than Drive in terms of audience reaction. The R-rated pic received a C CinemaScore, and played best to older males. Screen Gems’ financial exposure is limited, however, since the R-rated thriller cost $20 million to make.

I Don’t Know How She Does It, from the Weinstein Co., came in No. 6 with a Friday gross of $1.6 million. As with Straw Dogs, the comedy had a modest production budget in the mid-$20 million range.

Also starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, I Don't Know How She Does It received a B- CinemaScore, the best grade among the three new films. As expected, the film played heavily to females, who made up 74 percent of the audience. More than 80 percent of those turning out Friday night were over the age of 25.

Families are turning out in force to see the 3D conversion of The Lion King (theaters also are playing the toon on 2D screens), which was largely intended to promote the Oct. 4 release of the Diamond Blu-Ray edition of the film. But the theatrical run is turning out to be a phenomenon in and of itself.

Heading into the weekend, Lion King was expected to gross $12 million to $13 million; by midday Friday, those figures had been revised upwards to $15 million or better. For Disney, the news kept getting better and better as the evening wore on (some box office pundits, however, thought it would gross $18 million to $20 million all along).

Lion King remains the top grossing hand-drawn animation film of all time, and ushered in what's known as the "Disney Renaissance." All told, it's grossed north of $328.5 million domestically, and $788.2 million worldwide, including more than $10 million already earned in Latin America by the 3D re-release.