If you read my Box Office Prognosis ever week (which you SHOULD be doing, by the way), you would know about my absolute astonishment of The Lion King 3D’s success. As I said previously, I thought the era of rereleases was gone. Over and done with, never to be considered a financial benefit again. And I had evidence to back me up; after the Star Wars Special Editions in 1997, most re-releases struggled to gain box office momentum. With the popularity of home video rising in America, re-releases just STOPPED being viable.
But then The Lion King 3D came around. And shocking almost all box office pundits everywhere, made a killing at the box office. For the first time in more than a decade, a re-release managed to top the Box Office. And to date, the 3D reissue of The Lion King has grossed a staggering $66 million dollars in the US alone. And by the end of it’s run (which will probably be sometime after this weekend), it will gross upwards of $80 million dollars. Now that’s just unprecedented. Two weeks topping the box office, an $80 million dollar box office, and universal acclaim from audiences everywhere. Most movies released this year would have been lucky to get that number of success.
It’s not that I don’t think The Lion King 3D doesn’t deserve the money; the more money going into the movie, the better. But I’m just surprised audiences bought it. I mean, movies are expensive. Tickets cost a lot, especially if you’re in a family and have to pay the 3D uprise. Most families end up paying 40+ dollars just to see a 3D movie (and that’s not even counting snacks!). You think they would want to see something they haven’t seen before. But audiences are always more comfortable with the familiar, and that shone this month with The Lion King 3D. The mass market could have easily seen The Lion King at home; almost everyone owns a copy of the film on DVD or VHS. But for one reason or another, America choose to see The Lion King once again.
And surely other studios will notice. I mean, how could you not? Lion King, a re-release that cost very little to upconvert and only a little more to market, has made almost $70 million dollars in two weeks. That’s pretty incredible. Already, I bet studios are scrolling through their list of films to find a batch that they can re-release. And do you blame them? It’s a quick and easy buck, and a perfect way to increase the revenue of an already released product. And we haven’t seen the last of them. Already, Titanic and the Star Wars films are being unconverted. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before more are added to that list.
But the question must be asked; will all other 3D re-releases get the same amount of success that The Lion King 3D has? I mean, the point could be made that The Lion King is a very special film, a beloved classic that anyone could enjoy. At the same time, I have to imagine the studio executives are suspecting that it wasn’t the film that succeeded, but it’s presentation. It was presented with better audio and visuals in the theater, and I’m sure the 3D upcharge helped very much at the box office. But instead of looking at the film itself and the legacy behind it, I’d bet the studios are just looking at the 3D factor. Which makes them think “Hey, I can slap on some 3D to my once popular product and it will make millions and millions of dollars!”. Well I don’t believe this to be the case with The Lion King 3D, you can’t possibly disagree that the 3D factor didn’t help its run. If anything, the 3D gave audiences the incentive to see the film once more, this time in a new and fascinating light.
But if 3D re-releases became more popular, would anyone really complain? Quite honestly, I wouldn’t. And it’s not even because I want to see a classic film in 3D (in fact, I would prefer if the 3D was left out…). The reason I wouldn’t complain about 3D re-releases is simply because I would love to see a classic film be presented in the way it’s supposed to be shown; on the big screen. And if 3D is the way to get classic movies back on the screen in wide release, well, I’ll just have to deal with that. I would just have to hope the 3D is obtuse enough not to distract.
Everyone knows that 3D is slowly dying. The returns just aren’t coming in as well as they did with Avatar back in 2009, and the format is facing the cruel sting of audience rejection. But will this eventually be the true purpose of 3D? An avenue to re-release films to the theaters, an incentive to convince people that reliving the film in a movie theater is better than just popping it in their DVD player? Could 3D re-releases ever become as popular as Hollywood’s recent crazy with remakes and reboots? I don’t know, to be quite honest. But after the success of The Lion King 3D…I would gander that we will soon be finding out.
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