BO Report: ‘The Lion King’ reigns as Stephen Amis’ Sea Shepherd doc sails in

‘Defend, Conserve, Protect.’

Disney’s The Lion King roared through its second weekend in Australia as the studio smashed its own annual global box office record set in 2016 last weekend.

Meanwhile Defend, Conserve, Protect, Stephen Amis’ feature doc which examines the long-running campaign to stop Japanese fishermen killing whales in the Southern Ocean, opened on seven screens in limited sessions.

Narrated by Dan Aykroyd and produced by Amis, Sea Shepherd Australia MD Jeff Hansen and Sea Shepherd colleague Omar Todd, the film fetched an estimated $7,200 but had already netted $37,000 from about 40 advance screenings and festivals.

The executive producer, Label Distribution’s Tait Brady, is happy with the reviews and media coverage and says the film will play through the end of the year with screenings for activists and community groups, after which he will negotiate ancillary deals.

He offered the film to several sales agents but they were wary of the anti-whaling stance. “Sales agents don’t do much for you so we are looking at handling sales ourselves,” he tells IF.

Checking the totals of other Australian films still in release, Richard Lowenstein’s Mystify: Michael Hutchence has generated $988,000 for Madman Entertainment after its fourth weekend and will cross $1 million in the next day or two.

Damon Gameau’s 2040 has mustered $1.29 million after 10 weeks, hailed by Madman MD Paul Wiegard as an “evergreen, with numerous group bookings scheduled and community screenings now commencing at non-theatrical venues.”

Disney’s global haul rocketed to $7.67 billion, beating its 2016 record of $7.61 billion. It’s also the first studio ever to notch $5 billion outside the US. Illustrating the distributor’s dominance in Australia, its eight releases this year account for 40 per cent of the entire market.

That share will likely grow as Disney takes over the distribution of Fox’s movies starting with Ad Astra, James Gray’s sci-fi drama starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland, in September.

Post-school holidays, the top 20 titles’ takings dropped by 38 per cent to $18.6 million, according to Numero, despite lively launches by André Rieu’s 2019 Maastricht Concert, Punjabi comedy-drama Chal Mera Putt and Studiocanal’s Apocalypse Now The Final Cut. Among the other new releases, Icon’s The Keeper and Roadshow’s Diego Maradona made less headway.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the live action remake of The Lion King rang up $11.2 million, propelling the total to $41 million. The action adventure voiced by Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani and Alfre Woodard has amassed $350 million after just 10 days in the US and $612 million in the rest of the world.

So with $963 million in the till it will soon be the fourth Disney title to cross $1 billion this year, joining Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame ($2.79 billion) and Captain Marvel ($1.12 billion) and Aladdin ($1.01 billion).

Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home has joined the $1 billion club, raking in $344.4 million in the US and $692.4 million overseas. Here, the Jon Watts-directed sequel starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Aussies Remy Hii and Angourie Rice advanced to $35.2 million after minting $1.3 million in its fourth frame.

Released by Piece of Magic Entertainment, André Rieu’s 2019 Maastricht Concert – Shall We Dance?, which this year was dedicated to the waltz, tuned up with $1.2 million on 152 screens on Saturday and Sunday.

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 drew $840,000 in its sixth, climbing to $39.7 million. Directed by Josh Cooley, the comedy voiced by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Keanu Reeves has racked up $917.9 million worldwide.

Universal/Working Title’s Yesterday reached $12.1 million after collecting $613,000 in its fifth, outperforming the US where Danny Boyle’s fantasy romantic comedy musical has taken $63.3 million.

Directed by Janjot Singh and starring Amrinder Gill, Simi Chahal, Iftikhar Thakur and Nasir Chinyoti, Chal Mera Putt, the saga of Punjabis trying hard to make a living in a foreign land, bagged $313,000 on 33 screens for Mind Blowing Films.

Universal/Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 topped $18 million after adding $288,000 in its sixth. Skewing much younger than the original, the animated adventure comedy directed by Chris Renaud and co-directed by Jonathan del Val has clocked a mediocre $153.6 million in the US and $332 million globally.

German director Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s The Keeper, the true story of Bert Trautmann, a former Nazi soldier and prisoner of war who overcome a lot of obstacles to become a star goalkeeper for Manchester City, starring David Kross, Freya Mayor and John Henshaw, scored $224,000 on 95 screens and $260,00 with previews.

Director Todd Douglas Miller’s feature doc Apollo 11 ascended to $864,000 after making $210,000 in its second weekend for Madman Entertainment.

New Line/Warner Bros’ Annabelle Comes Home garnered $195,000 in its fifth as it reached $5.8 million, tracking a bit below the $69.7 million domestic take of the Gary Dauberman-directed horror thriller.

Oscar winner Asif Kapadia’s Diego Maradona, the documentary about the ups and downs in the life of the 1980s Argentine soccer star, on and off the field, kicked off with $113,000 on 53 screens and $136,000 with advance screenings.

Marking the 40th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic, the digitally remastered Apocalypse Now Final Cut drummed up $76,000 from limited sessions on 22 screens.

Cinema Nova general manager Kristian Connelly was impressed with the strong trading for Coppola’s film and said the Maradona doc should do similar business to the filmmaker’s Senna at his venue.

However Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close said The Keeper, Diego Maradona and Defend, Conserve, Protect opened below expectations, observing: “It is definitely a challenge for the industry at the moment to market and release these quality mid-range titles.”