China Box Office: 'The Lion King' Roars With Big $14.5M Friday

The healthy start is a win for Disney, given the limited exposure of the 'Lion King' franchise there.

Disney's The Lion King is off to a chart-topping start in China.

The Jon Favreau-directed film earned a estimated $14.5 million on Friday, a big number for a family title. Lion King is launching in China a week ahead of its debut in North America and most other major international markets.

The film appears to have been warmly received by Chinese filmgoers, scoring 9/10 on leading ticketing platform Maoyan, 9/10 on Alibaba's ticketing service Taopiaopiao and 7.6/10 on Douban, an influential local reviews site.

Those scores are roughly in line with Disney's live-action Aladdin — 9/10 on Maoyan and 7.8/10 on Douban —  which opened in the Middle Kingdom in late May. 

The Lion King is on track to sell considerably more tickets, however. Aladdin earned $19 million in its opening weekend and topped out at approximately $53 million. (Favreau's own The Jungle Book opened to $49 million, not adjusted for inflation, in April 2016.)

So far, Lion King is pacing ahead of both Jungle Book and Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which earned $11.6 million and $12.4 million on their opening days, respectively.

Maoyan currently predicts The Lion King will bring in $59 million (RMB 412 million) during its opening weekend, for an eventual final total of approximately $170 million (RMB 1.19 billion). 

Such earnings should be considered a win for Disney, given the limited exposure The Lion King franchise has had in China compared to most other parts of the world.

The original animated The Lion King film earned just $5 million in the Middle Kingdom in 1995, when the local market was a fraction of its current size. The hit stage production played there just twice in 2006 and 2017, both times in Shanghai. Few of the photorealistic remake's voice cast — Donald Glover, Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner and Alfre Woodard — have much name recognition in China. 

Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.

July 12, 7:45 a.m. Updated with revised opening day estimates.