Can you feel the love tonight? After Contagion took the box office last weekend, you would think that September might have some moves. Normally a very slow month, this weekend proves how slow that is if The Lion King (in 3-D) manages to trump everything else. Then again, the hottest of the new titles is Drive – the Cannes Best director winner – that has also managed to get a little backlash. Those not as impressed note that the film doesn’t cure cancer. Surely that means that cancer is cured by the other films opening this weekend, I Don’t Know How She Does It and Straw Dogs. If so, expect their numbers to sure.

The Lion King 3-D has a couple things going for it. One is nostalgia with a new twist, and the other is being the only major kids film. Just as Contagion went to Imax screens because there was a need for Imax movies in the post-summer atmosphere, The Lion King is filling a hole. It will be interesting to see if Dolphin’s Tale kills it next week when it comes out, but – to be fair – Disney’s Blu-ray release of the title is set for release October 4. This is partly an ad for that, but the 1994 film made $328 Million when originally released, and there are now people who grew up with the film with kids of their own. There’s just enough here to make it a big enough deal to win the weekend.

Drive is wrestling with hype in some ways, which is interesting for a film that could have been a non-starter. The film should clear ten million this weekend, and critics have been almost uniformly positive (95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). Regardless of critical infighting (which is mostly “good not great” vs. “great”), the big hurdle for the movie is that it’s neither fish nor fowl. It’s got an arthouse pedigree, and grindhouse violence, which could turn off both groups who like those things. It’s hard to know if the film will find its audience. Outside of Albert Brooks – who is brilliant in the film – there’s not a lot of Oscar buzz, which would help the film have a long play. And action movies – straight action movies – often don’t do that well. The Dwayne Johnson film Faster opened to $8.5 million.

The Weinstein company still exists, and I Don’t Know How She Does It is proof. This Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle feels like its form another era, and this release feels like contractual obligation. Regardless, the film’s advertising and general interest is minimal. And so it does a number that isn’t a face plant, but disappears.

When I talked to James Marsden about Hop, he told us that he took the project after doing Straw Dogs. Which suggests the film has been in the can a while. This is true: the film was originally set for release sometime last year, but got bumped. Stripping down the original film of some of it’s most dark moments (though not all), and changing the protagonists in ways that dilute the impact of the story, the remake is more commercial. But that’s not going to help with critics (currently the film is rotten), and audiences don’t know the original that well. That’s always the problem with remaking things in this way.

So, weekend numbers are on deck:

  1. The Lion King – $13.3 Million
  2. Contagion – $13 Million
  3. Drive – $11.7 Million
  4. Straw Dogs – $6.9 Million
  5. I Don’t Know How She Does It – $6.5 Million

So The Help‘s run is over at this point. We could see some movement on the lesser titles, but tis the season for weak releases.