It truly has been the year of Disney and, more cynically, the year of unoriginality at the box office in 2019. Since March of this year, Disney has seen six movies hit number one, with four of them scoring the top spot for multiple weeks. Meanwhile of 19 number one movies going into this past weekend in 2019 only one had been an actual unique and new product, Jordan Peele’s “Us”, while every chart-topper from January’s “Aquaman” to last week’s “Spider-Man: Far from Home” had been a sequel, remake, an adaptation of literary sources or urban legends, or a based-on-a-true-story narrative. Going into this weekend it looked like that trend was going to continue as Disney sought another potential record-breaking weekend with ANOTHER live-action remake of one of its legendary animated properties, “The Lion King”. Nostalgia and adaptations seem to be the selling point of 2019, so let’s see if Disney’s latest remake had enough steam to hand them another number one film in this week’s Box Office Breakdown.
“The Lion King” not only dominated the box office in a weekend with no major competition, but it also DESTROYED it. With an estimated domestic debut of $185 million, the live-action remake of the studio’s 1994 classic coincided with the original film’s 25th anniversary and broke the July opening record previously held by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”. The debut is also the second-largest opening of the year behind only “Avengers: Endgame” which had its own record weekend, but we’ll get to that in a minute. “The Lion King’s” domestic release was also the widest distribution ever for a film at 4,725 theaters and the largest debut for a PG-rated movie. Some have also debated whether or not “The Lion King” is truly a live-action movie or just an ultra-realistic animated remake. If you consider it the latter then “The Lion King” can lay claim to the record for the largest opening by an animated film although most seem to consider it something of a genre all its own, a feature meant to look like live-action while utilizing animation to accomplish that aesthetic. “The Lion King” also holds the largest opening of any of Disney’s live-action remakes to date, overpowering “Beauty and the Beast’s” $174.7 million start from 2017. “The Lion King” also cleaned up overseas earning $269 million from international markets for a global total of $531 million. While audiences seemed to eat up this nostalgic cash grab, I was much less accepting of it. You can read my review of “The Lion King” by clicking here.
Disney pulled off a rare feat, one so rare I could not find any other studio to accomplish it in the past decade from my research, but owning all three of the top spots at the box office in the same weekend, although there is an asterisk here. “Spider-Man: Far from Home”, a Marvel film (which is owned by Disney) more credited to Sony, placed in second after a two-week reign as box office king. While “Far from Home” is officially credited to Sony it is, in fact, a Marvel film and thus a Disney property in its own way. “Toy Story 4”, from Disney’s Pixar banner, snagged the third spot in its fourth week. With little competition threatening “The Lion King” next week, we could see our third consecutive multi-week number one after seven weeks of consecutive different chart-toppers, and all three will have some association with Disney. Rounding out the top five were “Crawl”, Paramount’s alligator-themed horror thriller which debuted last week, and “Yesterday”, the surprisingly resilient musical film about a world where only one man remembers the music of The Beatles. The rest of the top ten were all holdovers with “Stuber”, another Disney property from their Fox banner, falling to sixth followed by ANOTHER Disney movie, the live-action “Aladdin” remake, in seventh. “Annabelle Comes Home”, “Midsommar” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” rounded out the top ten.
But it’s what’s right outside the top ten that gives us the second biggest story of the weekend. “Avengers: Endgame” may still be a long way from capturing the domestic box office record ($80 million away in fact) but on a worldwide scale Marvel’s massive team-up film and by far the biggest film of the year has finally claimed the record of the highest grossing film globally in history. For weeks we’ve been watching to see if “Endgame” could pull it off and, after 13 weeks, it was finally able to top James Cameron’s “Avatar” as the highest grossing film of all time. Reaching $2.79 billion globally over the weekend, “Endgame” stole the record from “Avatar” in a fraction of the time it took the former Oscar contender to earn its money. “Avatar” had held on to the crown for a decade. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige made the announcement official at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con Hall H forum where Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was also revealed. I broke down what the next phase of this cinematic universe will be over the weekend so if you’d like to see what more Marvelous movies we can expect for the next two years you can check out that recap here. “Endgame’s” accomplishment, while amazing in scale, should be seen with an asterisk however as it still has not, and likely won’t earn the domestic box office record held by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and its numbers are not adjusted for inflation. When adjusted, “Endgame” only sits in fifth, while “Gone With the Wind” still serves as the highest grossing film. When you adjust that classic’s $400 million box office haul, it earned nearly $4 billion worldwide in today’s money.
Looking at next weekend, the holdover potential for “The Lion King” will likely make it the third film in a row to spend two weeks at the top of the box office, but the newest release coming to the big screen might just be a heavy favorite come award season. Quentin Tarantino will release his ninth film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” which packs plenty of star power and potential Oscar buzz as well as the director’s name and clout to help drive viewers to the cinema. It’s unlikely it will earn enough support to dethrone the “King” but it will be interesting to see how much fans embrace this latest project especially after Tarantino implied that this could be his final film. We’ll see how everything plays out this time next week.