We're almost done with 2018, which means that many of you are probably already looking ahead to what movies are coming out in 2019. There's a lot to look forward to in the coming year, but Disney has an especially impressive slate, including the "live action" (but not really) remake of The Lion King. The first trailer for the new Lion King dropped on Thanksgiving Day and proceeded to be the most viewed Disney trailer debut in a 24-hour period with 224.6 million views. Clearly a lot of people are looking forward to this movie, but the big question is will it haul in more cash than Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX, arguably Disney's two heaviest hitters next year.
Starting off, let's go over the two big factors The Lion King has going for it. The first is nostalgia, which, to be fair, plays into all of the live action remakes/re-imaginings that Disney is churning out. In The Lion King's case though, it's especially applicable. The first Lion King came out in 1994, right in the middle of the Disney Renaissance period, when the studio was delivering many of its most acclaimed animated films. The Lion King was the most commercially successful of the bunch, making over $968 million worldwide, and it could be argued it was also the most critically well received.
The generation that first grew up with The Lion King are now adults, and while you can bet there are plenty of kids and teenagers afterwards who are fans of the movie, it's those adults who will set down their own cash to see it the remake in theaters, whether it's by themselves, with their other adult friends or with their own children.
Just look at how Beauty and the Beast, another fellow Disney Renaissance-era remake, performed last year. It was the second highest grossing movie of 2017 with $1.2 billion, trailing only behind Star Wars: The Last Jedi's $1.3 billion. If Beauty and the Beast can do that well, just imagine the kind of money The Lion King can pull in. I wouldn't be surprised if it hit The Last Jedi's amount or went even further.
Then there's the second factor for The Lion King: the CGI of it all. This digital movie-magic is nothing new, but the prospect of seeing characters like Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki and everyone else as realistic animals is bound to draw people's curiosity. The trailer obviously did, so just imagine the turnout when The Lion King actually arrives in theaters. Yeah, there will probably be a decent amount of kids who will experience this remake as their first Lion King, but most of us will want to see how these elaborate musical numbers and action sequences look with these animals that look like they've been plucked from a nature documentary.
Not that talking CGI animals is something new from the Mouse House. Just two years ago, Disney's remake of The Jungle Book came out and made $966 million worldwide. Although Disney's original Jungle Book has its fair share of fans, I suspect the studio used the remake as a testing ground to see how a Lion King remake would do, and sure enough, that project got the green light five months after The Jungle Book's release. And while The Jungle Book has one main human character, The Lion King has none, so it will be interesting to see how audiences react to a movie populated only by realistic-looking animals.
Now let's look at Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX, arguably 2019's two biggest blockbusters. The first movie is wrapping up the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 3 and ushering in a new era for the superhero franchise, and the second movie is both the end of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga. So needless to say there's a lot riding on both of these movies next year, but regardless of how either are critically received, they're practically guaranteed to be box office juggernauts.
Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi made over $2 billion and $1.3 billion respectively, so for the sake of argument, let's assume that Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX will match or even exceed the figures of their predecessors. How does The Lion King stack up against them? Personally, I think that while it at least stands a decent shot against Episode IX, it won't come anywhere close to what Avengers 4 brings in.
In just 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the biggest movie franchise of all time, not just making superhero movies more popular, but also leading to other franchises wanting in on the 'shared universe' game. Avengers: Infinity War is the biggest entry of the lineup yet, and Avengers 4 is expected to be just as, if not more explosive. As beloved as the original Lion King really is, I don't think the remake is going to be nearly as strong of a pop culture force as Avengers 4. The chances of the new Lion King hitting $2 billion are extremely slim.
As far as Star Wars: Episode IX goes, the Star Wars franchise overall is still incredibly popular, no doubt about that. But The Last Jedi proved to be incredibly divisive, and while it definitely made a profit for Disney, it didn't come close to Star Wars: The Force Awakens' $2 billion. Admittedly, part of that may have just been that there hadn't been a live action Star Wars movie for a decade before The Force Awakens. Those were special circumstances.
Regardless, if Episode IX's box office haul ends up being closer to The Last Jedi's, then taking into account The Lion King's huge fanbase and the heaps of nostalgia, there's a decent chance it could surpass the next Star Wars movie. However, if word of mouth among the hardcore Star Wars fans on Episode IX ends up being better, thus drawing more people to see it or watch it again, then it stands to make The Force Awakens-like money. The Lion King will likely end up losing. These Disney remakes get a lot of viewers, but The Lion King will be lucky if it hits $1.5 billion.
As far as Disney is concerned, it wins no matter what happens. These three movies are all going to make bank, so which one leads the pack isn't a big issue for the studio. Still, from the perspective of the average moviegoer, I'm fascinated to see if all The Lion King has going for it is enough to make it a true contender against Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX. But for now, assuming Avengers 4 is just as successful as Avengers: Infinity War and Episode IX can gather more supporters than The Last Jedi did, then The Lion King will take home the bronze. Well, unless Frozen 2 manages to shake everything up.
The Lion King will be released in theaters on July 19, 2019, while Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX will arrive on May 3 and December 20, respectively, of the same year. As for what else is coming out next year, browse through our 2019 release schedule for that information.