Friday Report: 'Lion King' Pounces on Weak Field
Exceeding even the most generous prognostications, the 3D re-release of The Lion King ascended to first place on Friday with an estimated $8.8 million. Among the other openers, Drive had a solid start that couldn't quite live up to Internet buzz, while Straw Dogs and I Don't Know How She Does It didn't know how to draw audiences.

The Lion King (in 3D) earned its $8.8 million from 2,330 locations, nearly all of which were playing the movie in 3D. That's more than twice as much as the Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (3D) double-feature re-release grossed on its first day two years ago ($3.3 million), and it's also slightly better than September 2009's animated hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($8.1 million). Typically family fare sees a huge jump on Saturday, and based on historical antecedents The Lion King should be headed for somewhere between $31 and $35 million for the three-day frame.

Last weekend's winner Contagion had to settle for second place on Friday, dipping 42 percent to $4.6 million. That's a tad steeper than last September's The Town (40 percent), though it's still a decent hold. Through eight days in theaters, the Steven Soderbergh epidemic thriller has earned $34.3 million.

Drive debuted to just over $4 million from 2,886 locations, which is much better than Shoot 'Em Up and Eastern Promises ($1.9 million), though the latter was playing at less than half the number of theaters. Also, as hard as it is to believe this is the third-best opening day for star Ryan Gosling, behind Crazy, Stupid, Love. and The Notebook. Still, the movie should only wind up at $11 or $12 million for the weekend, which makes it the latest example of how endless Internet hype is rarely a strong indicator of mainstream appeal.

Straw Dogs disappointed with a paltry estimated $1.99 million from 2,408 theaters. That's way off from similar titles The Last House on the Left ($5.6 million) and Lakeview Terrace ($5.1 million), and it will be lucky to crack $6 million for the three-day period.

It appears women opted to catch up on The Help (or see it for a second time) on Friday instead of checking out the latest comedy from Sarah Jessica Parker. The late Summer hit eased just 28 percent to $1.93 million for a total of $142.9 million, while I Don't Know How She Does It debuted to just $1.56 million from 2,476 locations. That's lower than underperforming Fall movies You Again ($2.7 million) and Morning Glory ($3.1 million), and is also off from Parker's Did You Hear About the Morgans? ($2.34 million). It's in line to finish the weekend with under $5 million.

Neither of last weekend's lesser newcomers saved much face in their second frame. Warrior tapped out with an estimated $897,000 (off 49 percent) and has earned a paltry $8 million so far. That's an impressive performance, though, compared to Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, which plummeted 76 percent to just $130,000 (a per theater average of $87). The Adam Sandler-produced comedy has made $2.1 million through eight days in theaters.

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Forecast: 'Lion King' to Roar Again

Related Chart:

• Grosses for Friday, September 16, 2011