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Walt Disney’s The Lion King made an early start to its global box office reign in China over the weekend, opening to a respectable $54.7 million, according to studio estimates.
The healthy Friday-to-Saturday start landed right in the middle of most prerelease forecasts, which anticipated the film taking somewhere between $50 million and $60 million.
Directed by Jon Favreau, the film’s English-language voice cast stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner — none of which are particularly big names in China (the movie is playing in both subtitles and dubbed versions).
The debut was substantially better than that of Disney’s other live-action remakes, The Jungle Book ($46.5 million), Beauty and the Beast ($45.2 million ), Aladdin ($18.8 million) and Dumbo ($11 million). The strong results are reflected in the favorable online buzz for the film in China, with scores of 8.9/10 on Maoyan, 8.8/10 on Alibaba’s Taopiaopiao and 7.5/10 on Douban.
The film also was a robust earner on Imax, bringing in $6 million from 618 giant screens, which was 21 percent higher than Jungle Book and 97 percent higher than Beauty and the Beast.
Among Disney’s live-action remakes, The Jungle Book remains the biggest success in China. The film built on its so-so start to ultimately earn $150 million over its entire run in the territory. Maoyan currently predicts The Lion King to top that total with a finish at approximately $165 million (RMB 1.14 billion). The only obstacle might be the imminent arrival of what’s looking to be some fearsome local competition.
Chinese family drama Looking Up, directed by and starring Deng Chao, held limited previews over the weekend, generating some rave prerelease buzz — 9.4/10 on Maoyan — as well as some substantial earnings. The film, which opens wide Thursday (July 18), grew from 200 preview screenings Friday to 23,000 by Sunday, totaling $5.6 million for the frame, according to regional box office tracker Artisan Gateway. If the movie’s social buzz continues to build, The Lion King‘s China reign could be short-lived.
The Lion King opens nearly everywhere else in the world, including North America, on Friday (July 19).
Last weekend’s market winner, Hong Kong crime actioner, The White Storm 2, added $33 million in its second outing, taking its total to $137.7 million.
Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, meanwhile, inched toward the $200 million mark in China, adding $9.5 million to its tally over the weekend. The movie has earned $191.6 million, the second most of any Hollywood title in the Middle Kingdom this year (Avengers: Endgame sits at a seemingly untouchable $614 million).
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