Weekend Box Office – DOLPHIN TALE Surfaces In First While New Releases Sink

     October 2, 2011

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With three new releases plus three strong holdovers, this weekend turned out to be one of the most difficult to predict in terms of box office numbers.  In the end, it was the week-old Dolphin Tale that emerged victorious: leaping over Friday’s champ Moneyball, the still-ferocious Lion King 3D and the critically-acclaimed newcomer 50/50.

Title Weekend Total
1 Dolphin Tale $14,245,000 $37.5
2 Moneyball $12,500,000 $38.4
3 The Lion King 3D $11,050,000 $79.7
4 50/50 $8,850,000 $8.85
5 Courageous $8,800,000 $8.8
6 Dream House $8,200,000 $8.2
7 Abduction $5,650,000 $19.1
8 What’s Your Number? $5,600,000 $5.6
9 Contagion $5,040,000 $64.7
10 Killer Elite $4,855,000 $17.4

dolphin-tale-movie-posterIt doesn’t happen very often but, for the second time in as many months, a film that debuted below the top spot has jumped into first place.  We had The Help back in August and now Dolphin Tale, which opened in third place last weekend with $19.1 million.  Alcon Entertainment’s heart-warming family pic had good word of mouth going into its sophomore frame; still, on one of the year’s most crowded frames, very few imagined Dolphin would be able to claim top-spot bragging rights.  Hopefully, those rights will transfer into cash because, even with the film’s excellent hold of 75%, its domestic cume has barely topped its $37 million budget.

Moneyball is in a similar spot.  Though the film can boast two number one Friday wins and some of the best reviews of the year (95% on Rotten Tomatoes), its domestic cume still falls short of its $50 million budget.  Luckily, Moneyball’s legs (down just 37% this week) look solid enough to keep it in the game for the next few weeks.

Remember when The Lion King was re-released in 3D and the ads told us it would be in theatres for “two weeks only”?  Well, here we are at week three and, considering that the family favorite is still putting up double digits, I’m pretty sure Disney isn’t going to yank it anytime soon.  Hell, even the studio’s Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3D re-issue wound up stretching its “2 weeks only” run to five weeks: and it only grossed one third of what The Lion King 3D has earned in half the time.  Right now, with $408.1 million, The Lion King (all three theatrical editions combined) has moved to number ten on the list of All-Time grosses and by the end of the week it should be second on the All-Time Animated chart as well.

Looks like I made it through three paragraphs without mentioning any of the weekend’s new releases.  Sad.  Despite some pretty optimistic predictions, not one of the four newcomers made it to double digits, though at least one did manage to catch box office watchers by surprise.

That would be the independent drama Courageous, which took in an estimated $8.8 million from just 1,161 locations this weekend.  The film is from the same team who brought us the surprise-hit Fireproof on this week back in 2008.  That ‘faith-based’ drama made back its $2 million budget on its first Friday and, so far, Courageous is running 23% ahead of where its predecessor was after three days.  Right now it’s hard for me to believe that this new film will have the same staying power Fireproof had but, hey – He works in mysterious ways.

Perhaps the week’s most talked about new feature was 50/50.  The dramedy starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt tried hard to overcome its “bummer cancer” concept with its advertising and, for awhile, it looked like it might work.  50/50 received excellent advance notices (92% Tomato score) and most box office watchers thought it would end up with at least $13 million on its first weekend. It was not to be.  In fact, its current estimate of $8.9 million from 2,458 locations may turn out to be too high.  Makes that $22.6 million opening for the last big cancer comedy, Funny People, look a little healthier now, doesn’t it?

daniel-craig-rachel-weisz-dream-house-movie-imageBringing up the rear we have our final two new releases: the Universal-distributed thriller Dream House and the Fox romantic-comedy What’s Your Number? Despite its all-star cast, Dream House only managed to pull in an estimated $8.2 million from 2.661 locations.  On the positive side, that amount was in-line with expectations.  Not so for What’s Your Number? With the widest release of the week (3,002 locations) and the strength of its star Anna Faris’s The House Bunny in mind, most expected this comedy to double its current estimate of $5.6 million.  In fact, more than one forecaster believed the film had a shot at $15 million and this week’s top spot.  Instead, it made Abduction look like a blockbuster.

Even with the weakness of this weekend’s new titles, the box office managed to outpace 2010 by approximately 10%.  Next weekend gives us two more newbies with questionable prospects: the George Clooney drama The Ides of March and the robot-boxing movie Real Steel.  Neither one has ‘blockbuster’ written all over it, but we couldn’t have three weeks in a row with a holdover on top… could we?

Hugh Jackman Real Steel movie image

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