Grady Smith
September 15, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

I guess there’s a “Circle of Life” at the movies too!

This weekend, Disney’s technologically enhanced The Lion King 3D “Just Can’t Wait to be King” of the box office, as it’s being re-released for a limited two-week engagement. The film should “Be Prepared” for some light competition from Straw Dogs, Drive, and I Don’t Know How She Does It, but we’re sure Disney is saying “Hakuna Matata” about the newcomers. By the way, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” that I’m expressing for The Lion King? That’s exactly the kind of nostalgia that should propel it into first place. But just how much will it earn? And how will other films do at the box office? Check out my full predictions below. 

1. The Lion King 3D – $18 million

Although many moviegoers won’t want to shell out $60 for their family to rewatch Disney’s animated classic in 3-D, the converted picture’s advanced ticket sales have been very strong, and it seems likely to climb to the top of Pride Rock the box office over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Will it match the $40.9 million wide release debut of the original 1994 run? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be successful. Converting the picture didn’t cost the studio much, and since Disney will be releasing this on Blu-ray 3-D anyway, the theatrical run will likely be all gravy.

Back in 2009, Disney’s Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3-D double feature earned $12.5 million in its opening weekend, but Lion King, which doesn’t come with the daunting prospect of sitting through two entire movies, may improve on that figure a bit. Many parents who grew up with The Lion King now have youngsters of their own to take to the film, and even those who don’t have children may be excited to revisit their childhood. I’m going to be bold and say the film, which is playing in 2,330 locations (a few of which will show the film in 2D) takes in a strong $18 million this weekend.

2. Contagion – $12.3 million

Last weekend’s champ is typically the kind of movie that would hold very well in its second weekend — it’s got strong reviews and an A-list cast — but its “B-” CinemaScore grade was not as contagious as Warner Bros. might have hoped. The thriller may drop by about 45 percent to $12.3 million, giving it a $42 million total.

3. Drive – $11 million

Ryan Gosling may be a critical darling and an audience favorite, but he doesn’t have much heft at the box office just yet. His latest film, Drive, about a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, is earning strong reviews, though it may be just a bit too artsy for general audiences to truly embrace it (especially younger audiences — the film carries an R rating). Without much buzz heading into Drive‘s release, it’s clear that it won’t be another Fast and the Furious. Still, the FilmDistrict release has a wide theater count of 2,886 locations, and its Best Director win at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year may attract more critic-conscious audiences. It may find $11 million this weekend.

4. Straw Dogs – $10 million

This violent, R-rated remake starring James Marsden and Alexander Skarsgard hasn’t garnered much excitement in the months leading up to its release, and Sony dumping it in the box office graveyard of September isn’t a major vote of confidence, either. Like Drive, Straw Dogs lacks a major box office draw (I’d say Marsden is a rom-com draw, though), and its lackluster reviews will keep away many older moviegoers. Playing in 2,408 theaters, the revenge thriller might take in $10 million.

5. I Don’t Know How She Does It – $7 million

Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest romantic comedy, I Don’t Know How She Does It, debuts in 2,476 theaters this weekend, but, like Parker’s other recent rom-com, Did You Hear About The Morgans?, it may struggle to fill seats at the theater. With poor reviews and little appeal for men or young audiences, I Don’t Know How She Does It, which cost The Weinstein Co. a little more than $20 million, might turn in a disappointing $7 million debut.

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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