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The Lion King domestic opening poised to set new box office records 

The moment that South African fans of The Lion King have been waiting for is finally here. Theatre doors finally open nationed wide on Friday (July 19) for the highly anticipated live-action remake which is expected to set new box office records 

FOR LOCAL moviegoers and music fans across the African continent, the highly anticipated global opening of The Lion King signifies a truly powerful moment that will see a bevy of homebrewed talent shines through, led by South Africa’s king of theatre and Tony winner John Kani as Rafiki. A slew of African actors have also bagged major roles in the movie, including Nigerian-British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as Simba’s villainous uncle Scar, and Florence Kasuma (as Shenzi), who while born in Germany is of Ugandan origin. Directed by Jon Favreau-directed, the film sees James Earl Jones returns as Mufasa, the king of the Pride Lands and the caring father of Simba.

As analysts have it, the 1994 Disney remake is on track to shutter weekend opening box office to an estimated tune of $175 million in the US alone, and even go on to become the biggest grossing film of the year. As you read this, it has earned a weekend opening of over $54.7 million in China, higher than the openings of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Released last November, the film’s first trailer has already sets record as Disney’s most-watched trailer debut of all time with 224.6 million global views in 24 hours. 

The legendary John Kani voices Rafiki in The Lion King remake

Ahead of this week’s theatre opening, Walt Disney Records released the original soundtrack for the movie on July 11. It is fronted by American music superstar Beyoncé, and Oscar nominee Donald Glover (who plays Nala’s love interest Simba in the film) in the song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight. The album also features original music by Sir Elton John, including the famed Circle of Love, originally sung by South African producer Lebo M (who reprises his role as a compose and performer) as the film’s opening song in 1994.

The Lion King soundtrack tipped for big things 

Meanwhile, Beyoncé has curated his own much-talked soundtrack called, The Lion King: The Gift, which officially comes out on Friday, July 19. Tipped for big things at the upcoming awards season, an Oscar to be precise according to Queen Bey herself, the album is deeply steeped in Africa. It features a boatload of Nigerian singers such as Yemi Alade, Wiz Kid, Burna Boy, Tekno, Tiwa Savage, and Cameroonian singer Salatie, and  Ghanaian musician Shatta Wale. South Africa’s own Busiswa and Moonxhild Sanelly can also be heard flying Mzansi’s flag high in the song, My Power.

Beyoncé plays Nala in The Lion King

Spirit, Beyoncé single from the album and from the film’s original soundtrack has debuted at No. 1 on the Kid Digital Song Sales  (dated July 20), with 7,000 downloads sold in its July 11 opening week ending, according to Nielsen Music. The ballad marks her first entry on the charts, which ranks classic children’s songs from the big and small screens.

Speaking of her role as the ‘The Gift‘ soundtrack curator, Beyoncé said: “It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me.”

Watch Beyoncé’s Spirit below:

Tickets to watch The Lion King are available on the South African Disney website.

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Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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