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‘Lion King’ 3-D Makeover Tops Movie Sales With $30.2 Million

“The Lion King,” Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s 3-D re-release of its 1994 animated hit, opened as the top film in U.S. and Canadian theaters with $30.2 million in ticket sales.

The thriller “Drive” was third in its debut, taking in $11.3 million for distributor FilmDistrict, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The films were among four opening this past weekend.

“The Lion King” is playing in theaters for two weeks before the release of a 3-D Blu-ray disk on Oct. 4. The film is among several older hits that studios are converting to 3-D for theatrical release, including James Cameron’s “Titanic.” Previously, “The Lion King” had $788.2 million in worldwide ticket sales and won Academy Awards for Hans Zimmer’s score and for the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

“3-D hit one out of the park finally,” said Jeff Bock, a film analyst for Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, in a telephone interview. “It’s a revenue score for Disney and for 3-D exhibition because in August we had four or five 3-D films and all were pretty much bombs.”

He said the industry didn’t expect more than $15 million in ticket sales from the movie.

Other films undergoing 3-D conversions include George Lucas’s “Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace” and the Tom Cruise action film “Top Gun.”

‘Drive’

“The Lion King” tells the story of Simba, a young lion who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after the murder of his father. The film features the voices of Jonathan Taylor- Thomas, Matthew Broderick and James Earl Jones.

Finishing second was “Contagion,” about a global epidemic. It dropped from first place and had $14.5 million in sales in its second weekend. The film includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne.

Third place’s “Drive” stars Ryan Gosling as an expert driver who performs movie stunts during the day while moonlighting as a getaway driver for robbers. Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston co-star.

Bock said the movie, “one of the first Oscar buzz films of the season,” did well especially since graphic violence deters some people from seeing movies.

Disney’s “The Help,” a civil rights-era drama about black maids in the racially segregated South, dropped to fourth from second. The film had sales of $6.5 million and has collected $147 million since its Aug. 10 release.

‘I Don’t Know How’

In fifth place, “Straw Dogs,” a remake of director Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 dark, violent drama, had sales of $5.1 million for Sony Corp. (6758)’s Screen Gems.

James Marsden stars as a writer who follows his wife, played by Kate Bosworth, to the rural South to prepare her family home for sale. Conflict arises when an old boyfriend decides to pursue Bosworth’s character.

The comedy “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” opening in sixth place, had sales of $4.4 million for Weinstein Co. The movie features Sarah Jessica Parker as a working mother who struggles to balance the demands of her job and family. Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear co-star.

“This is a disappointing opening,” Bock said.

Among next weekend’s openings, “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt, may be the strongest and likeliest to compete with “The Lion King,” Bock said.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 1.2 percent to $86.3 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Domestic box-office receipts this year have declined to $7.7 billion. Attendance is down 5.9 percent, and revenue is down 3.9 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Sept. 16-18.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
 1 LION KING (3-D)    $30.2   2,330  $12,941    --    $30.2    1
 2 CONTAGION           14.5   3,222    4,515   -35     44.3    2
 3 DRIVE               11.3   2,886    3,929    --     11.3    1
 4 THE HELP             6.5   3,014    2,161   -27    147.4    6
 5 STRAW DOGS           5.1   2,408    2,128    --      5.1    1
 6 I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE 4.4   2,476    1,778    --      4.4    1
 7 THE DEBT             2.9   1,831    1,607   -38     26.6    3
 8 WARRIOR              2.9   1,883    1,519   -45     10.0    2
 9 PLANET OF THE APES   2.7   2,340    1,136   -32    171.7    7
10 COLOMBIANA           2.3   1,933    1,206   -41     33.4    4
11 SHARK NIGHT (3-D)    1.8   2,082      865   -47     17.3    3
12 SPY KIDS 4           1.6   1,650      964   -36     36.1    5

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $86.3         $87.3      -1.2


Year-to-date Revenue

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $7,697        $8,009      -3.9

Year-to-date Attendance:     -5.9%

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at Mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Nina Mehta in New York at nmehta24@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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