Four new movies were no match for the feline phenom The Lion King 3D, which ruled the box office for the second weekend in a row with $22.1 million, according to studio estimates. The 1994 Disney classic dropped only 27 percent — an incredibly impressive hold considering this is the re-release of a 17-year-old film that’s coming out on Blu-ray/DVD in one week. The 3-D version has now grossed $61.7 million, bringing The Lion King‘s cumulative tally to $390.2 million. Disney says it plans to extend what was originally intended to be just a two-week release, although details are still being ironed out.
The weekend’s runner-up was the new Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball, which batted a solid $20.6 million. If the estimate holds, that’ll represent the best opening ever for a baseball film, beating 2006′s The Benchwarmers ($19.7 million). Surprisingly for a sports movie, Moneyball drew a crowd that was evenly split between men and women, although it skewed quite older, with 89 percent of the audience at least 25 years old. Both critics and moviegoers were fans — the PG-13 film received some of the strongest reviews of the year and earned an “A” rating from CinemaScore participants.
Moneyball will now try to follow in the box-office footsteps of last year’s The Social Network, which debuted to a similar $22.4 million en route to a domestic total of $97 million. Both movies were released by Sony in the middle of fall and were written by Aaron Sorkin (who co-wrote Moneyball with Steven Zaillian). The two films even cost around the same amount to produce: $50 million for Moneyball and $40 million for Social Network.
Right behind Moneyball was the PG-rated family drama Dolphin Tale with $20.3 million. The Warner Bros. film joined Soul Surfer and The Help to become the year’s third release to score an “A+” from CinemaScore audiences. As a result, Dolphin Tale is expected to hold up particularly well in the next few weeks and should easily earn back its $37 million budget. Showings in 3-D theaters accounted for 50 percent of the film’s opening.
Fourth place went to Lionsgate’s Abduction, starring The Twilight Saga‘s Taylor Lautner is his first solo lead role. The PG-13 action film debuted to a modest $11.2 million — slightly below industry predictions. The $35 million movie received most of its business from young women, with 68 percent of the audience being female and 56 percent under than age of 25. Abduction garnered a lackluster “B-” rating from CinemaScore moviegoers, though women under the age of 18 were more generous with an “A-” grade. And according to CinemaScore, 56 percent of ticket buyers listed Lautner as their main reason for attending the movie. So the 19-year-old actor does have box-office potential, but it’s currently limited to teenage girls.
Finally, in fifth was the R-rated thriller Killer Elite, which snagged a disappointing $9.5 million. The $66 million movie, starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro, is the first picture to be released by Open Road Films, a partnership between the AMC and Regal theater chains. But despite its buzz-worthy cast, the film couldn’t match the $11.4 million debut of Statham’s last live-action project, January’s The Mechanic. CinemaScore graders handed Killer Elite a so-so “B” rating.
In limited release, the action biopic Machine Gun Preacher — starring Gerard Butler as real-life biker-turned-defender-of-Sudanese-orphans Sam Childers — underwhelmed with $44,000 at four theaters. And Puncture, featuring Chris Evans as a drug-addicted lawyer, also disappointed, grossing $35,700 from four locations.
1. The Lion King 3D — $22.1 mil
2. Moneyball — $20.6 mil
3. Dolphin Tale — $20.3 mil
4. Abduction — $11.2 mil
5. Killer Elite — $9.5 mil