It’s Still Clear Which Film Is the ‘King’ : Movies: Disney’s animated feature brings in an estimated $34 million over the holiday weekend, giving it more than $100 million after 11 days of nationwide release.


Walt Disney Pictures’ animated musical “The Lion King” continued to roar at the nation’s box offices while “star-vehicles” floundered during the long Independence Day weekend. “The Lion King” attracted a massive $34 million in ticket sales, for a total of slightly more than $100 million after only 11 days of nationwide release.

Only last summer’s “Jurassic Park” and 1989’s “Batman” reached the $100-million plateau faster--"Jurassic” in nine days, “Batman” in 10. But considering that easily half the tickets sold for “The Lion King” are at children’s prices, the $100-million milestone is all the more impressive. Disney’s president of distribution, Richard Cook, estimated that more than 25 million have seen the animated musical fable since it opened in Los Angeles and New York on June 15 and then nationally on June 22. Even subtracting the gross for the preliminary two-city engagement puts “Lion King” over $100 million, Cook said.

Film industry estimates for the Friday-through-Monday weekend placed the total value of tickets sold for all films at about $113 million, which would be down about 10% to 15% from last summer’s record Fourth of July weekend (paced by “The Firm,” “Jurassic Park” and “Sleepless in Seattle”).

But the total was well ahead of other Fourth of July weekends during the last decade, which have fallen in the $75-million to $90-million range. “It clearly means that the marketplace has expanded,” said Tom Sherak, 20th Century Fox executive vice president. The leap in the grosses for this summer and last has outpaced the rate of ticket-price inflation.

Columbia Pictures’ distribution president Jeff Blake anticipates the summer movie business will stay hot “and extremely competitive” with dozens of movies competing for space at the nation’s theaters. “The trouble is that there isn’t room in the market for that second- or third-choice movie. When you are offering audiences new must-see movies every week, it’s going to be very hard for moviegoers to get around to the second and third choices.”


“The Lion King’s” total was bigger than the combined gross of the next three highest films of the weekend: Universal Pictures’ “The Shadow” at $12.3 million, 20th Century Fox’s “Speed” at $12.2 million and MGM’s “Blown Away” at $10.5 million.

The weekend’s results again underscored what a bad summer this is for movie “stars.” The latest in a list of disappointing results came with the sixth-place opening of the Disney/Touchstone release “I Love Trouble,” starring Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte, which had an estimated gross of $7.5 million.

Earlier, such films as the three-hour plus “Wyatt Earp” with Kevin Costner, “City Slickers II” with Billy Crystal, “Getting Even With Dad” with Macaulay Culkin and “Beverly Hills Cop III” with Eddie Murphy failed to catch fire with audiences. The exception has been Columbia Pictures’ “Wolf” starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, which reported a gross of $8 million for its third weekend in release, though some industry analysts said that figure would probably end up lower when final numbers are reported today.

Another potential exception is Paramount Pictures’ “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks, which opens Wednesday. Sneak previews of “Gump” helped boost the Saturday night grosses for “City Slickers II” and “Maverick.”

Universal’s stylishly mounted production “The Shadow,” with Alec Baldwin playing the comic-book hero, surprised most box-office watchers with its stronger than expected, second-place debut. Universal senior vice president Nikki Rocco said the movie is playing strongly to those above 25 who remember the comic books, but “also looks like a hit with the under-25s.”

The $10.5-million opening of the action film “Blown Away,” which stars Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones, while not blockbuster-level business, is nevertheless the biggest opening week that the beleaguered MGM has known since 1984 when the studio began to experience a series of ownership and management turnovers. “This puts us back in the mainstream of movie distribution,” said Larry Gleason, MGM’s president of worldwide theatrical distribution.

Another film in the weekend’s Top 10 included “Wyatt Earp,” $5.2 million for seventh position. “The Flintstones” grossed $4.1 million for eighth place and has amassed $112.1 million since the Memorial Day weekend. In ninth place was Fox’s “Baby’s Day Out” with an estimated $4 million.

“Maverick” and “City Slickers II” appeared to be tied for 10th place with about $3 million each.

Due to the Fourth of July holiday, the weekend box-office results usually found in Tuesday’s Calendar will run on Wednesday.