September is not the best month for the movies; kids and college students are back in their class rooms and parents, having spent loads of money on summer vacations, think many times before going for a movie.
Yet, the 3-D release of a 17-year-old movie, The Lion King, roared loud across America, garnering an estimated $30 million worldwide, far exceeding most forecasts.
It was the number one film in the world, though most of its gross came from America. It is showing only in a handful of foreign territories, rolling out slowly.
British comedian Rowan Atkinson is one of the voices in The Lion King, and he also plays the lead in Johnny English Reborn, which is showing in only a handful of countries but is creating quite a box office stir.
Outside of North America, another kid movie, The Smurfs, continued its reign at the top. The movie, which is ending its run in North America, is still potent abroad having released in Australia and Italy over the weekend. It took an estimated $17.3 million from 72 markets for a mammoth $344.5 million foreign total. It has now earned $482.1 million worldwide (domestic plus foreign) and could easily end its run with $550 million, making it one of the most successful films of the year.
There was also good news for movie spoofs. Atkinson, best known for his portrayal of the character of Mr Bean in the BBC comedy series, has just scored his biggest hit with Johnny English Reborn -- the sequel to the 2003, spy spoof Johnny English. Though not as widely popular in America as he is in Europe and Australia, Atkinson has a decent following here; his movies may not make pots of money in America, but they turn a profit. His new film opens in North America next month.
According to box office reports, Johnny English Reborn made $11.5 million in its opening weekend abroad. Last month, the actor made headlines when he was hospitalised after crashing his exotic, $1.6 million McLaren F1 on the race course. This month he's making happy news.
Besides being the voice of Zazu in The Lion King, Atkinson has appeared in many hits: Never Say Never Again, Love Actually, Four Weddings And A Funeral, and Hot Shots! Part Deux. But Johnny English Reborn is his biggest showing as a lead star, according to the LA Times.
The big success of The Lion King is good news for Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox that have announced that James Cameron's 1997 global record breaker, Titanic, will return to theatres in 3D in early 2012.
The Lion King opened to $40.9 million during its first weekend in wide release 17 years ago and went on to gross an awesome $788.2 million worldwide (adjusted for inflation, the gross could exceed $1.1 billion). The new version was to be shown for just two weeks across America before the 3-D home video version would be released. Now, there are reports that Disney will keep it in the theatres for many more weeks.
The stage version of the film has grossed over $3 billion worldwide in more than a dozen countries, including Mexico and China, after having opened to strong business in New York in 1997. Even today it shows to capacity crowds on Broadway, and with over 12,000 admissions each week, it makes about $1.2 million
The huge success of the newly formatted The Lion King will encourage studio executives to look into their libraries and re-release their old hits, The Wrap reported. Disney's distribution chief, Dave Hollis, told The Wrap: 'When you look at our library, there are some very special gems as it were, and for those that transcend time -- and a lot of them do -- to bring them through 3D is a great opportunity.'