Seventeen years ago, Disney's The Lion King became a box office phenomenon. Remarkably, for two weeks running, the beloved animated film has reigned the box office again at No. 1.
The 1994 classic dropped just 27 percent in its second week, an incredibly impressive hold for a film that will be re-released on Blu-ray/DVD in one week's time.
The Lion King 3-D has now grossed $61.7 million, bringing the film's cumulative tally to $390.2 million.
It's one of the biggest surprises of the year, and Disney reportedly plans to extend what was originally intended to be a two-week limited release (though no details have been announced).
The Lion King 3-D is the first re-release to hit the top spot in 15 years. It's performing far better than the Disney re-release of Toy Story 2 3-D, which earned just $3.3 million on its first day in 2009.
Not since Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, has a re-release fared so well -- and it has done far better than what pre-release polling indicated.
Analysts predicted the cartoon to do a modest $14 million because of its availability on home video. The film more than doubled that in its first weekend.
This weekend's runner-up was Moneyball. The Brad Pitt baseball drama batted a respectable $20.6 million. Moneyball had the best opening ever for a baseball film, topping 2006's The Benchwarmers (19.7 million).
The film was a hit with both critics and audiences, earning some of the strongest reviews of the year and earning an A rating from CinemaScore participants.
Behind Moneyball in the No. 3 slot was the family drama Dolphin Tale, ($20.3 million) which also went over well with both critics and audiences. Dolphin Tale tells the true story of a brave dolphin and the compassionate strangers that band together to save her life.
Lagging behind were the weekend's other new releases, Abduction and Killer Elite. Abduction, Taylor Lautner's first post-Twilight vehicle, mustered just $11.2 million and garnered some of the worst reviews of any film in 2011. Killer Elite, based on the book of the same name, also received poor reviews and, though it had the combined star power of Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro, generated just $9.5 million.
Contagion ($8.6 million), Drive ($5.8 million), The Help ($4.4 million), Straw Dogs ($2.1 million), and I Don't Know How She Does It ($2.1 million) rounded out the top ten.
Yet, The Lion King 3-D ruled the theatrical jungle.
Families turned out in full force to see the 3-D conversion of the 1994 animated classic (though some theaters are simply playing it in 2-D). The release was largely intended to promote the Oct. 4 release of the Blu-Ray edition of the film, but the theatrical run is taking on a life of its own.
About 89% of the nation's reviewers recommended the movie, while 89% of fans gave it a thumbs-up, according to survey site Rottentomatoes.com.
The highest grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time, The Lion King is credited with ushering in what is known as the Disney Renaissance. It also spawned a highly successful Broadway production and several television knock-offs.
Many credit the success of The Lion King re-release to the fact that the generation of people who grew up with the much-loved animated film now have kids of their own who they can take to the theater to share the experience.
Plenty of parents are interested in experiencing Simba's story on the big screen again while introducing the fun to a whole new generation, Gitesh Pandya, of Boxofficeguru.com, told USA Today. The theatrical experience still makes for an exciting family activity at the start of this new school year, especially since there has been nothing major for the kids since July's The Smurfs.
Weekend Box Office Totals:
1. The Lion King 3-D -- $22.1M
2. Moneyball -- $20.6M
3. Dolphin Tale -- $20.3M
4. Abduction -- $11.2M
5. Killer Elite -- $9.5M