Disney released The Lion King in fancy new 3D over the weekend, and the film opened with an unexpectedly great $23 million (predictions I’d seen last week had it pegged around $15 million). It’s a two-week engagement, so I suspect that at the end of that period, The Lion King will sit around 5th all-time for re-issued classics. It makes sense since, in terms of audience size, The Lion King still stands as the most successful animated film in the last 50 years.
It did get me wondering about other re-issues, however. I could not find a definitive list of the most successful, but through some research, I was able to find the numbers on most (if not all) of the high-profile re-issues. By a very large margin, Star Wars is easily the most successful. It also may not be surprising to see that animated and family films typically do well on re-issues. Adult films, conversely, do poorly no matter how successful they were during their original run (see, for example, The Godfather’s $1.2 million on re-release). I also found it curious that movies that have been re-released several times find little success in some years and great success in others: See, for instance, Grease, which garnered $28 million in 1998 and $365,000 last year (with a sing-along component). I also found the re-issue numbers on Tim Burtons The Nightmare Before Christmas rather curious, too: It made only $375,000 on its first re-issue, seven years after its release. But it made $8 million in 2006, nearly doubled that in 2007 ($15 million) and then made only $1 million in 2008. I’m certain there were many factors at play, but it is strange to see such wild fluctuations over a four year period.
I’ve only bothered with one re-issue in my lifetime: 1998’s Gone with the Wind ($6.7 million), but I mostly did so to see if I could sit through a film with an intermission (I believe that is one of only two films I’ve ever seen with intermissions, the other being Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet0.
For the edification of your curiosity, below are 20 more re-issues, and their box-office grosses.
But before we get to that, a quick run-down of the rest of the weekend’s numbers: Drive opened behind Contagion< at number three, with around $11 million and presents one of the bigger oddities among critics and audiences: Critics loved it (including Dan, myself and 92 percent of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics) but, overall, audiences did not. It received a C- on Cinemascore, which is much worse than it even sounds (even the worst films typically don’t fall below a B-, as they are rated by friendly audiences members who who paid to see a movie they wanted to see). IMDb has it at an early 8.8 (which would put it among the top 15 movies of all time and although it won’t hold on to that over the coming weeks, it’s likely to stay in the top 100). Metacritic, likewise, gives it an 80/100, so film lovers generally dug Drive. But the average multiplexer did not care for it. At all. I don’t understand why, but I imagine the critic/audience divide will resurface around Oscar nomination time, and words like “pretentious” will be thrown around by people who don’t actually know what “pretentious” means.
Compare the C- that Drive received to the B- that I Just Don’t Know How She Does It received and, well, you begin to understand why Jersey Shore is the top-rated cable program on television. Nevertheless, I Just Don’t Know How She Does It ($5 million), like Straw Dogs ($4.5 million), both had weak openings, below the 4th place The Help.
The Box-Office Performance of 20 Re-Issued Classics
Star Wars (1987): $138 million
101 Dalmatians (1991): $60 million
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial : $40,000 (1985)
Bambi (1988): $40 million
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial : $35 million (1997)
Toy Story / Toy Story 2 (2009): $30 million
Cinderella (1981): $28 million
Grease (1998): $28 million
Star Wars (1982): $15 million
Sleeping Beauty (1986): $15 million
The Wizard of Oz (1998): $14 million
Mary Poppins (1980): $14 million
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D (2007 re-issue): $14 million
The Polar Express (2005): $10 million
Gone with the Wind (1998): $6.7 million
Blade Runner (1992): $3.7 million
Citizen Kane (1991): $1.5 million
The Godfather (1997): $1.2 million
Taxi Driver (1996): $962,000
Scarface (2003): $739,000
The Passion of the Christ (Recut) (2005): $508,326
Grease (2010): $365,000