Weekend Box Office – THE LION KING 3D Keeps Its Crown; MONEYBALL Slides to Second with $20.6 Million

     September 25, 2011

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Once again, it looks like I was foolish to bet on Moneyball.  Blinded by the strong opening day of this long-time underdog, I completely forgot that last weekend’s champ would have a home field advantage on Saturday.  The final score put The Lion King 3D back on top and added another $22.1 million to the re-release’s lifetime stats.  Moneyball had to settle for second, though the estimates between it and the week’s newest family film, Dolphin Tale, are close enough that the baseball flick could conceivably fall to third by Monday.

Title Weekend Total
1 The Lion King 3D $22,100,000 $61.6
2 Moneyball $20,600,000 $20.6
3 Dolphin Tale $20,300,000 $20.3
4 Abduction $11,200,000 $11.2
5 Killer Elite $9,500,000 $9.5
6 Contagion $8,565,000 $57.1
7 Drive $5,771,000 $21.4
8 The Help $4,400,000 $154.4
9 Straw Dogs $2,100,000 $8.8
10 I Don’t Know How She Does It $2,053,000 $8

moneyball-posterBy now you probably know the story of Moneyball.  Based on the book by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side), director Steven Soderbergh signed on to direct back in 2004, dropped out, then came back in 2009 with Brad Pitt as star.  Days before shooting was set to begin, Sony showed Soderbergh the door for the last time over “creative differences.”  It looked like the project was finished, but Pitt stayed supportive and, with new director Bennett Miller and a script polish from Aaron Sorkin, here we are.

Moneyball opened Friday in 2,993 locations and walked off with an estimated $20.6 million and what (for now) is second place.  That’s enough to give the film the all-time best opening for a baseball movie, not adjusted for inflation, ahead of the $19.6 million Benchwarmers earned in 2006.  The reported budget for the PG-13 Moneyball is $50 million, so with the kind of legs that “quality” adult-themed films have been exhibiting over the past year (think, The Town and The Help) Sony should be feeling good about renewing the film’s contract.

Speaking of good legs, in its second weekend in re-release The Lion King 3D fell by just 27% – a better hold than 1997’s Star Wars: Special Edition reissue experienced on its second weekend.  With a ten day total of $61.6 million, the domestic lifetime gross of The Lion King now tops $390 million; putting the family favorite at number three on the all-time list of animated releases and within striking distance of Toy Story 3’s second place standing of $415 million.

Though The Lion King remained dominant, the weekend’s newest family film came very close to usurping the throne.  Warner Brothers’ heartwarming Dolphin Tale had the frame’s highest theatre count with 3,507 locations (76% in 3D) and took in an estimated $20.3 million for third place.  Because that total is only $300,000 behind Moneyball, however, we could see a ranking shift by the time final figures are released on Monday.  Dolphin Tale cost a reported $37 million, and with solid reviews (83% on Rotten Tomatoes) the only thing that could have made this weekend a little sweeter for WB would have been a chance to play to the family market without The Lion King hogging the spotlight.

abduction-movie-image-taylor-lautner-01Sticking with this month’s trend, our final two new releases were disappointments.  At number four with an estimated $11.2 million: Lionsgate’s Abduction.  The action film, headlined by Twilight‘s  Taylor Lautner, stuck to another trend as well: the middling debuts of films headlined by Twi-lumni (remember Remember Me?).  Budgeted at $36 million, the film’s first weekend estimate is not awful; but it is not the $15 million that many expected.

Open Road Films was also expecting their first feature to open a little higher.  The crime drama Killer Elite, with a cast including Clive Owen, Jason Statham and Robert DeNiro, was expected to come in between $10 and $12 million.  Instead, the poorly received feature (23% Tomato rating) took in just $9.5 million from 2,986 locations.  The good news is that Open Road doesn’t have far to go to make a nice profit as Killer Elite was acquired for P & A costs alone.

Overall, it looks like this weekend will come out ahead of 2010’s total – when The Town scored a surprise victory with its $23.8 million opening.  Next weekend looks like more of a question mark as the cancer dramedy 50/50 and the thriller Dream House both try to pull audiences away from The Lion King.  I don’t think either new release can top the $19 million debut of 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, unfortunately, but I also thought that Moneyball would be number one today, so…

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