Box Office Shocker: 'Lion King' Set to Become No. 3 Animated Pic of All Time Thanks to Re-release

1:56 PM PST 09/25/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Walt Disney

The updated 3D version of the film is playing well to both couples and families.

Disney’s 3D re-release of The Lion King—one of the biggest box office surprises in recent history—is doing so well that the pic is about to pass Pixar’s Finding Nemo and become the fourth top-grossing animated film of all time on its way to claiming the No. 3 spot.

Through Sunday, the re-release has grossed $77.7 million globally, including a dazzling 10-day domestic total of $61.7 million. That puts Lion King’s total gross at $862.1 million, just behind Finding Nemo’s worldwide tally of $867.9 million.

That’s not all: Lion King should ultimately eclipse Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($886.7 million) and take the No. 3 spot, considering the re-release is expected to do another $40 million in business worldwide. It has only opened in 19 markets internationally, representing 41 percent of the foreign marketplace.

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The No. 1 animated pic of all time worldwide is Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 3 ($1.1 billion), followed by DreamWorks Animations’ Shrek 2 ($919 million), Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Nemo and, rounding out the top five, Lion King.

The Lion King re-release has become a box office phenomenon, drawing both families and couples.

“During the daytime, we are seeing family business. But in the evening, it’s a date-night title for a generation that loved the film when they were younger,” said Disney executive vice president of distribution Dave Hollis.

According to exit polling, couples make up 20 percent of Lion King’s audience, while teens make up roughly 9 percent. The remainder of the audience is families.

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Lion King stunned Hollywood when opening to a first-place $30.2 million over the Sept. 16-18 weekend at the domestic box office, followed by an even more surprising No. 1 finish over the Sept. 23-25 weekend. The re-release grossed $22.1 million in its second outing, beating such erstwhile competitors as Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball and new family film Dolphin Tale.

“It’s a great movie,” Hollis continued, “and timeless in its storytelling.”

The re-release, which is playing on some 2D screens as well, is generating more than 90 percent of its grosses from 3D locations. Domestically, the film has one more weekend of full play in theaters before the Diamond Blu-Ray edition of the film is released on Oct. 4.

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Back on the top 10 list of animated films, Shrek the Third holds at No. 6 ($799 million), followed by Shrek Forever After ($752.6 million), Up (731.3 million), Kung Fu Panda 2 ($659.2 million) and, coming in No. 10, Ice Age: The Meltdown ($655.4 million).

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