Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
September 19, 2011

There went your fantasy football season (yes you, Kim Hollis).

It's the Circle of Life. In 17 more years, it will make another $30-40 million.

Kim Hollis: The Lion King 3D earned $30.2 million, winning the weekend and surprising a lot of analysts. How did this happen?

Matthew Huntley: I think this boils down to two factors: 1) The new releases were too unappealing to reach #1 (and none of them catered to the ever-important family audience); 2) The Lion King remains one of the most beloved animated films of all time, and those who saw it nearly 20 years ago probably wanted to re-experience it and/or share it with their new families. This is a big win for Disney, as it will not only spark interest in the upcoming Lion King Blu-ray, but it also suggests the studio can re-release many titles in their animation catalog and yield a healthy profit. I'm still not convinced it's necessary to see The Lion King in 3D, but it's one of those perennial classics that I wouldn't mind seeing again on the big screen. Obviously, I'm not the only who feels this way.

Brett Beach: I think this should be considered in perspective of both the Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3D re-release in late 2009 and the Star Wars Episode IV re-release in 1997. The Lion King came out only a year before the first Toy Story and was being sent back to theaters 17 years later (compare to 14 years/10 years for the Toy Stories and 20 years for Star Wars). Lion King's grosses were 2.5x that of Toy Story, and in straight numbers, not far off A New Hope's gross of $35 million in 1997. Can the Lion King now be fairly pegged as Disney's equivalent to Star Wars - at least in the modern Disney era (1970s and beyond)? Their strategy of regularly sending films to the "vault" (it's creepy-sounding, I just have to say) and then letting them re-emerge in spruced up fashion or at least new packaging is brilliant, and not all that different from what George "Noooooooo!" Lucas does every other Leap Year.

I am not sure how unavailable LK was in contrast to the Toy Story films, but this shows that LK was in some sense more beloved or at least tapped into more nostalgia. I had heard that this was being advertised as one of those "two-week" deals so maybe that spurred some consumers who might otherwise have waited, but if Disney was seriously considering doing that (ha!), they have Best of Both Worlds themselves out of that thinking. I am supposing Finding Nemo will be a candidate for this later this decade.

Bruce Hall: I think we've already effectively drilled down on this one, but there's no question that there was little in new release to be excited about this weekend, particularly if you felt like taking your kids to the theater. But I can't get over how an almost 20 year old film that most people probably already own on DVD was re-released in a dubious and expensive format this weekend, and managed to come within shouting distance of its original opening weekend of $41 million. Even adjusting for inflation, this is worth talking about and I think that this result almost guarantees we're going to see more of this. I don't really see the value in a 3D version of The Lion King either, but I can't imagine that matters one whit to Disney or the other studios who are as we speak forcing bleary eyed interns to work overtime combing through the archives looking for titles to resurrect. But as far as the Disney flicks are concerned, be prepared to take your kids to see them. Because after a limited time they're going back into the Vault, and your family will hate you forever unless you take advantage of the once in a generation opportunity to relive the magic.

For some reason, I feel so filthy for saying that.

Shalimar Sahota: And there I was, thinking that maybe audiences were turning their backs on 3D. Maybe The Lion King is just one of those films people are happy to view again on the big screen, 3D or not, though personally I find the film to be a little over-rated (it just goes downhill midway through). Makes me wonder if the 3D-re-release of The Phantom Menace next year will open any higher. Following from what Brett highlighted, the TV spots do cleverly advertise the film as "For A Limited Engagement," which could mean anything. By not specifying an actual time period, and having the film open as well as it did, it can only mean that Disney will do a Hannah Montana and play it for as long as people are willing to pay for it.

Edwin Davies: I went to see The Lion King in 3D on Saturday with my sister, and we went solely so that we could experience the film on the big screen for the first time since we were children. Bear in mind that we watched the film literally hundreds of times when we had it on VHS back in the '90s, and as such we could probably quote it back to front. Yet we paid premium prices to see it again because it is such a landmark film for us growing up, and I can only assume that a lot of people who loved the film when they were children, many of whom will now have children of their own, wanted to relive that experience again. The fact that it is in 3D was immaterial. If Disney had re-released The Lion King solely in 2D, with the same two-week only strategy, it still would have won the weekend, because for a certain generation it is a cultural touchstone.

As for the 3D, I don't think it added much to the film itself, but it didn't really hurt the film either. Warning: Technical jargon ahoy. They used a positive parallax 3D process, rather than a negative parallax process, so instead of having the point of focus be outside of the screen, which would involve things and objects coming out at the audience, they have the point of focus lay behind the screen, which gives an impression of depth. It's the more aesthetically pleasing version of 3D - by which I mean it won't give you a throbbing headache all the way through the film - but it's also pointless, because it augments something that the eye and the brain already do; find depth in 2D imagery. I will say, though, that seeing a cleaned up print, projected on to a big screen, with proper theater sound...that was worth the extra price, for me, and I can't say that I walked away from the screening disappointed.

Reagen Sulewski: Something I'm surprised to see this morning is that Disney's stock price is down from Friday close, although I've never claimed to be a finance guru. This instantly adds hundreds of millions of value to the vault items. Not everything is going to be as successful as The Lion King (which as mentioned is their prize possession taking into account inflation) and we're not going to see, say, The Fox and the Hound 3D, but there's no reason they shouldn't be working towards producing one of these a year. Leveraging old content in new ways is a proven gold mine.

Kim Hollis: I think that regular readers here will know that I love animated films, and The Lion King is not just one of my favorite animated films ever, but also one of my favorite *films* ever. Like Edwin, I can quote it front to back with no difficulty at all - and that includes some interlude without having seen the film for probably several years. I was delighted to have the opportunity to see it again on the big screen. The 3D didn't matter a bit in my decision to go to the theater, but it was a nice bonus. I've now seen the film on opening day, when it hit IMAX and now for this re-release. I'd do the same thing for stuff like Spirited Away and Monsters, Inc., for what it's worth. There's just a richness to seeing this stuff on the big screen rather than on a TV - even a really nice HDTV. On top of that, there's something to be said for seeing these sorts of beloved films with like-minded fans. It really does add something special.

The big problem with this film may just be that people assumed it was a prequel to Drive Angry 3D

Kim Hollis: Drive, the Ryan Gosling film that plays more like art house than action, earned $11.3 million. How should FilmDistrict feel about this result?

Brett Beach: I am not sure how to take this whole "art house" talk, but I am gathering as a film goer who thinks this looks more kick-ass than half a dozen Faster Furiouser-s, that I should be insulted. With a B+ Flixter approval and a C- CinemaScore, it apparently is as polarizing a release as we have seen in a while, which I think is always a good thing (people should get a little pissed off every now and then at the multiplex) As a throwback to the existential car-chase films of the 1970s (Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, and especially The Driver), it wasn't ever going to risk racking up a large opening weekend. Film District should be pleased: It's a labor of love for Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn, it didn't cost a lot, and good reviews and some of that positive word-of-mouth should keep it around for a few more weeks domestically.

Matthew Huntley: Its modest production budget should allow Drive to end up in the green, but I don't think by very much. Despite glowing reviews from critics, I think its lower per-screen-average and bad word-of-mouth will force it out of theaters faster than expected. This is a shame, too, because the movie is unique in many respects and does offer a fresh style. On the other hand, some of its qualities are rather old and conventional. It's a mix of good and average, but more good than average. With its cinematography and pumping soundtrack, I can see this movie shining brighter on Blu-ray, which should please Film District even further.

Bruce Hall: $13 million budget. $11 million opening weekend. Before the next time we all get together, this movie will have technically been profitable. Mission accomplished. I'm not quite ready to call Baby Goose a force to be reckoned with, but I do love calling him that.

Edwin Davies: I think they should be pretty happy with this result because, as everyone has said, it didn't cost much and it had made most of that budget back by Sunday evening (and will probably make the rest back by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest) but also because of the kind of film it is and who is starring in it. These kind of slow, meditative yet thrilling and shockingly violent films aren't very common, and they really aren't the sort of films that would usually get this wide of a release. Furthermore, even though Nicholas Winding Refn is probably one of the ten best directors working today (Wonder why you're seeing Tom Hardy in everything these days? Check out Refn's brilliant, brilliant film Bronson, which stars Hardy in a terrifying and captivating central performance. His Pusher trilogy is also essential viewing if you want to see some of the best crime films ever made.) he's not exactly delivered any sizable hits in his career. (In fact his American debut, Fear X, was such a flop it bankrupted his studio.)

As for Gosling, he's been in some successful films but never really transferred that into a successful solo venture. That Drive opened to $8 million less than Crazy, Stupid Love, which boasted an ensemble of better known names and a more accessible genre, has to be taken as a good sign that his star is on the rise. FilmDistrict took a big gamble on Drive, and whilst it didn't break out in the way that a similarly arty action film like The American did, it's a pretty solid result which will probably earn a decent amount domestically, a similar amount overseas, and build a cult on DVD. Not bad at all.

Max Braden: I think the reason the critics and audiences are so polarized is that the great trailer suggested something the movie wasn't. The condensed version of the movie makes it look like an action movie with Gosling looking cool. When I was coming out of the movie one of the typical comments I overheard from the audience was "That was two hours of Ryan Gosling staring into the distance." Right from the neon opening credits and music, I was thinking "This movie would have been right at home in 1990." That doesn't make it bad, but I think the change in gears from what people expected resulted in some buzz that stunted the box office. On the other hand, if the trailer had more accurately reflected the tone of the movie, the box office probably would have been even low

Kim Hollis: I have to agree that they're fairly pleased with this. It's such an unlikely contender. People know Gosling, but I don't think he opens movies. Similarly, if you've seen the trailer or the commercials, they're a little off-putting, I think. That's probably for the best given the reception to the movie so far, but what I'm guessing is that people went in looking for another Transporter style film but what they got was something more cerebral.