The Conversation: What Does 'The Lion King 3D' Box Office Success Mean for Hollywood and Moviegoers?

The Conversation: What Does 'The Lion King 3D' Box Office Success Mean for Hollywood and Moviegoers?

Sep 27, 2011

When Ghostbusters is re-released in theaters next month, people may wonder why it's not in 3D, especially since The Lion King 3D has been #1 at the box office two weeks in a row. When Titanic is re-released in April for the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking, people may assume it is in 3D because of the Lion King success. Of course, responses and trend-following of this sort aren't so immediate. Both re-releases were on track before Disney's industry-stunning achievement. As were 3D conversions of Star WarsTop Gun and Disney's own Beauty and the Beast

But the box office of The Lion King 3D has to mean something for both Hollywood and moviegoers going further, right? Urgently, it means the film will remain in cinemas at least one more week, extending beyond the initially planned two-week run. So if you haven't experienced Simba and friends in three dimensions, you've still got time. For the long run, it could mean more 3D conversions for classic films with at least limited theatrical runs (before hitting 3D Blu-ray). 

What should be taken out of the vaults? The Los Angeles Times blog 24 frames has a poll asking if readers would like to see E.T.Gone With the WindThe Wizard of OzLawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Sound of Music (or none of the above) get the 3D treatment next. As of this posting, Kubrick's sci-epic is leading. Other sites are offering their own ideas for titles as well as thoughts on what this all means for movies.

Satire site CAP News made up the following statement from Disney Animation Studios president Edwin Catmull on which of his company's films' timeless scenes would look good in the format:

"I'm thinking of the scene where Dumbo cries uncontrollably while curled up in his imprisoned mother's trunk, or the one where Bambi's mother is shot to death," said Catmull. "Or the part in Pinocchio where Stromboli locks him in a birdcage and tells him he's going to chop him to pieces with an axe, or where all the bad boys get turned into donkeys ... yeah, basically all of Pinocchio."

Of course, that's a joke, but ignoring the focus on darker moments these titles aren't bad picks. Imagine Dumbo flying at you or Pinocchio's nose poking out off the screen. Oh, and less gimmicky enhancements, too. Let's go to the blogs and Twitter to see what others are saying with more seriousness:


My guess?  Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid and Aladdin, all by next Christmas. - Holly Robin, The BQB

"Beauty and the Beast" is surely coming. You'll know they're out of titles when "Hercules 3-D" comes out. - Will Leitch, The Projector

Perhaps this means we'll finally get to see that long awaited 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast which was originally slated to hit theaters before The Lion King was even announced for an encore theatrical run. Either way, bringing movies back to theaters could very well be the new hot trend, but it will be interesting to see which films are deemed worthy for the honor. Ghostbusters will come back to the big screen next month, and it would be nice if Jurassic Park follows since the UK has already beaten us to the punch with a theatrical run in honor of the Blu-Ray release. - Ethan Anderton, First Showing

Is The Lion King really the Disney jam we want to see in fulgent 3-D? I’d give anything to see Cruella de Vil’s husky fur coat and jutting clavicle defy time and space. - Louis Virtel, Movieline

I have to think that the interest in this product is largely in the fact that the product itself is a quality film [...] I hope it means that the animated studios will realize that they need to boost the quality of their offerings and the audience will come. What I'm afraid this means is that over the next couple years we will be seeing Aladdin 3D, Beauty and The Beast 3D, and The Little Mermaid 3D. - RC, Strange Culture

6. "Spaceballs" (1987) At its best, a 3D "Spaceballs" release could be the ultimate satire of the 3D phenomenon. From Rick Moranis' giant helmet to Pizza the Hut, the only way to do this movie justice would be with excessive pop-outs in every scene. The results would be absurd and too compelling to miss. - Brian Warmoth, IFC News, from a list of '10 Movies We Actually *Want* to Get a 3D Re-Release'

As great as it might be to see, say, the mirror scene from "Citizen Kane" in 3-D [...] [it] was at the center of the colorization battles of the 1980s. We expect – or at least hope – there will be similar debate as Hollywood studios dip into back catalogues for runs through the digital 3-D machine. There’s an art to filming in black and white as much as there is in making movies in a mere two dimensions. The value of introducing older films to new audiences and a given flick’s suitability for conversion need to be weighed carefully against possibly changing the movie’s meaning or impact, through a loss of subtly or a shift in emphasis of the visual storytelling. - Jere Hester, NBC

If 3D gives them a more immediate reason to re-release movies, fine, but I think one of the great missed opportunities of the movie industry is the understanding that a great movie is a great movie, no matter how old it is, and that there's no substitute for seeing a great movie in a theater, even if you've already seen it on DVD. - Rob Thomas,

I’m not going to tell you that that means the sky is falling — people really love the Lion King. And to be fair, baseball is really boring, and the best way to spice it up probably isn’t math equations. Maybe next time, turn it into some post-apocalyptic future sport, where instead of a ball, the pitchers throw ninja stars, and the batter has to try to hit them with a big snake! “This summer, Vin Diesel, Nick Cannon, and Cam Gigandet star in…  SNAKEBASE!” - Vince Mancini, Film Drunk

While some people might frown upon the lack of originality in re-releasing a movie from two decades ago just to make money, this says something about the moviegoing public wanting to share in the experience of an established fan favorite — with other fans. - Jamie Frevele, The Mary Sue

Before we start building an underground shelter to protect ourselves against the possible threat that is My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3-D, let’s give Hollywood a chance. As I spoke to a number of industry insiders about the future of 3-D reissues, a set of rules started to emerge regarding which films should be rereleased in 3-D and how [...] it was encouraging to hear that, at least at this juncture, there is an understanding that only a select few motion pictures deserve The Lion King 3D treatment. - John Young, Entertainment Weekly  

Theatergoing in the next decade may increasingly need to concentrate not the frisson of the new but the comfort of the familiar. The more individuated thrill of discovery — which can be experienced at home as easily as in a movie theater — could be de-emphasized in favor of the communal uplift that can really only happen in a large public space. In this sense, "The Lion King" doesn't represent a Hollywood out of ideas -- it's a movie industry responding with the best tools it has. - Steven Zeitchik, 24 Frames

Conversation Poll question: What does and should the Lion King success mean for Hollywood and moviegoers?

@gholson: Disney should dust off their old practice of releasing classics theatrically. They just have to learn from the past and not clog up their own market with too much product. Takes the special-ness away.

@alexbush: I think it means that every few months we should rerelease truly great films, but Hollywood will take it as a rerelease every month in 3D, which will kill that idea fast.

@ScottMendelson: It means that Disney will restart their annual or perhaps biannual theatrical releases of their 'classics'. Most likely first re-issues are Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo. Latter 2 have yet to come to Blu Ray.

Conversation Poll question: Which titles deserve to be re-released next? 

@MarcVibbert: Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and Peter Pan

@jbdcampbell: Alice in Wonderland, Pinnochio, Dumbo!


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join 'The Conversation'.

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