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The Lion King rules with $185 million US debut, $433 million worldwide

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LOS ANGELES — Simba and Mufasa reigned supreme this weekend as Disney’s The Lion King dominated box office charts. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the animated classic collected a massive $185 million from 4,756 North American theaters during its first three days of release.

In yet another win for Disney, the movie landed the best domestic launch for a PG film and set a new record for the month of July. That figure represents the second-best domestic debut of the year behind Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame ($357 million). The Buena Vista company now holds five of the top six biggest movies of 2018 so far.

Overseas, The Lion King felt the love with $269 million for a global start of $433 million. The film launched in China last weekend and has since earned $98 million, boosting the worldwide haul to $531 million.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of global distribution, said on a Sunday morning call. “The Lion King has such a resonance in pop culture that you see all different types of people coming out. People wanted to be part of this.”

The state-of-the-art technology used to bring the Pride Lands and its inhabitants to life drew a polarizing response from reviewers, but the newest version of Disney’s crown jewel proved to be critic-proof, and the prospect of hearing Donald Glover’s Simba and Beyoncé’s Nala harmonize to Disney classics was irresistible. The Lion King is already one of the most recognizable stories across the world, but the remake benefited from an equally buzzy voice cast including Mr. Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa. James Earl Jones reprised his role as Mufasa from the original movie. The updated version also includes a new song from Beyoncé.

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Disney has re-imagined five of its classics to mostly consistent success. Outside of The Lion King, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast had the strongest start with $174 million, followed by 2010’s Alice in Wonderland launched with $116 million. In 2016, Favreau’s The Jungle Book earned a strong $103 million in its inaugural weekend. In May, Guy Richie’s Aladdin debuted with $91.5 million and is approaching the $1 billion mark globally. However, Tim Burton’s Dumbo stumbled with $45 million earlier this year.

In a banner weekend for Disney, the studio is now home to the highest-grossing movie in history. Avengers: Endgame crossed $2.7892 billion at the global box office, officially dethroning the 10-year record of James Cameron’s Avatar. — Reuters

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