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THE ‘LION’ ROARS AGAIN BUT THE ‘DOGS’ HAVE NO BARK – This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond

By Pete Hammond

HollywoodNews.com:Well, apparently Hollywood found the secret for late summer success at the boxoffice. Forget the slew of cut-rate , unimaginative movies and just go into the vault for a real audience pleaser. That’s exactly what Disney did with their “special two week engagement” of The Lion King 3D , the 17 year old blockbuster that has now been converted into the pricier 3D format and grossed a terrific estimated total of $29.3 million to easily lead the box office this last official weekend of Summer 2011. The reissue was so successful that according to the Los Angeles Times, even rival The Weinstein Company was blaming it in part for their subpar debut of the Sarah Jessica Parker romcom, I Don’t Know How She Does It (apparently no one cared how she does it) which opened out of the top five with a sixth place $4.5 million. The blame is being put on mothers who had to take their kids to Lion King instead of indulging in the Parker chickflick.

But back to ‘Lion King’. It’s Blu Ray home video debut comes October 4th but the power of the film is clearly remarkable as cash-starpped parents are forced to pay higher 3D prices for a movie that was widely seen (it made a three quarters of a billion in its original theatrical run) and will be coming out again in two weeks on the home video format (where it has been AWOL since 2004). Nostalgic adults and a new audience of young kids make up the reason for the overperformance. It harkens back to the original Walt Disney theatrical release formula that was practiced by the studio in the years before videotape. They would reissue their classic animated films to theatres every seven years to capture a brand new audience. They have been following the plan with home video too by removing titles from the market and then re-introducing them in a spiffy repackaged, remastered format several years later. That’s the plan for Lion King but even Disney executives must be surprised at how well this interim theatrical stop is doing.

Steven Soderbergh’s global disease thriller, Contagion also had much to cheer about with a slight drop week to week of under 40% (the estimate is actually 36%) , a very good hold to bring its ten day total up to $44 million. And there was also good news for Film District’s sensational , Drive starring Ryan Gosling and featuring an Oscar worthy supporting turn from Albert Brooks. Cannes Film Festival winning Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s cool film drew an estimated $11 million and even went up from Friday to Saturday despite a not-so-good Cinemascore first night audience satisfaction rating of C-. The Friday to Saturday bump could be indicative that the film is already beginning to find an audience that will be more appreciative of the movie’s deliberately paced tale of a movie stunt driver who gets in over his head with a very intense criminal element. It’s a cross between a classic format used in westerns like Shane or The Searchers (a loner comes into town, cleans things up and leaves bloodied but still standing). But the contemporary film also has the icy, stunning look and feel of 60’s classics like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt. Whether Refn’s style is too arty or European for today’s impatient young male audiences is another question since clearly they are who made up the bulk of the opening night crowd, and the group that seemed disappointed with what they saw at least according to the Cinemascore numbers.

Film District’s Bob Berney is such a savvy distributor there is no question he should be able to draw in the discerning moviegoers who will most appreciate the film in coming weeks. It’s already got the critics with one of the year’s most impressive scores, 93% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. The one-two punch of Drive and The Ides Of March (Oct 7) should confirm Ryan Gosling’s super-stardom in case there was any doubt.

Competing directly against Drive for the adult action crowd is critic-turned-director Rod Lurie’s ballsy remake of Sam Peckinpah’s classic Straw Dogs. Considering it only got a ‘C’ satisfaction rating from Cinemascore , a weak 37 % fresh RT score and only $5 million for a fifth place finish, Sony’s Screen Gems might have been better off following the Disney formula and converting the 1971 Peckinpah original with Dustin Hoffman into 3D and releasing that instead. It likely could not have done much worse at the ticket booth. Competition from the strong debut of Drive and the strong hold of Contagion likely swallowed up a lot of potential customers for Dogs. For my money Lurie did a fine job updating the film and in fact was pretty faithful to the ’71 version but the lack of interest from moviegoers might make Tony Scott think twice about his announced intention to remake another Peckinpah classic, 1969’s The Wild Bunch. Some things are better left untouched I suppose.

Like The Lion King.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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One Comment

  • Julie Wyatt
    September 18, 2011 | Permalink |

    This week’s MVP: Christina Hendricks She excels with her performances in ‘Drive’ and ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ and proves her talent and once and for all to those who can’t see past her ample cleavage, fuller legs and fuller backside. These roles are taking her to new places – less ‘Mad Men’ and more mainstream movies.

    I would have liked to see ‘Stay Cool’ get a nationwide release. It has an interesting cast with stars who should be doing more mainstream movies – Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, Hilary Duff, Josh Holloway, Jon Cryer, Chevy Chase.

    Straw Dogs marks the only return of James Woods to the big screen since An American Carol (2008) and it is so disappointing that they are showing little to nothing of him in it and he hasn’t been promoting the film. I wish he would do more major films like he used to.

    I hope that Drive’s Ron Perlman only does theatrically released films from now on. He is an underrated actor and shouldn’t be doing straight to DVD films.

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