Despite the added presence of four new wide releases in the marketplace this weekend, Disney's The Lion King 3D was able to rule the weekend box office for a second consecutive weekend. The 3D re-issue of the 1994 animated blockbuster grossed $21.93 million, which was down a terrific 27 percent from last weekend's surprisingly strong debut. The Lion King 3D has grossed $61.48 million through ten days of release, placing the lifetime domestic gross for The Lion King at $390.02 million. With the film performing so well thus far it is extremely likely that the film's original two-week window will be extended past this Thursday, though exact details have yet to emerge.
While it had to settle for second place overall, Sony's Moneyball was able to win the battle between this weekend's four new wide releases. The baseball drama starring Brad Pitt opened with $19.50 million, which was right in line with pre-release expectations. Moneyball opened 2 percent stronger than the $19.13 million start of 2008's Burn After Reading and 13 percent softer than the $22.45 million start of last year's The Social Network. With the aid of strong reviews and early Oscar buzz, word of mouth is likely to be very strong for Moneyball. The film's A rating from CinemaScore is also another great sign going forward. The audience for Moneyball was nearly split between genders (51 percent male) and skewed heavily towards older moviegoers (64 percent was over the age of 35).
The weekend's biggest surprise was clearly Warner's Dolphin Tale. The modestly budgeted 3D family film opened in a close third place with $19.15 million. The debut was especially impressive when considering the level of competition from The Lion King 3D for both family and 3D dollars. Dolphin Tale opened 51 percent stronger than the $12.69 million debut of last year's Secretariat. Like Secretariat, Dolphin Tale is extremely likely to display exceptionally strong holding power. Dolphin Tale generated an impressive opening weekend to Friday ratio of 3.76 to 1 and earned a rare A+ rating on CinemaScore. The film will also be helped going forward from the limited amount of new competition for family audiences throughout October.
Lionsgate's Abduction took fourth place with $10.93 million. The Taylor Lautner vehicle opened on the low end of expectations. Abduction got out of the gate slowly on Friday with an opening day take of $3.84 million, but did increase a solid 21 percent on Saturday thanks in part to the film's target audience of teenage girls having school on Friday. Abduction has been killed by critics and received only a B- rating on CinemaScore. However, the film did receive an A- CinemaScore from females under 18, which suggests that the film still has a chance of generating respectable holding power. Following in the footsteps of Conan the Barbarian and Warrior, Abduction represents the third soft performer for Lionsgate in little more than a month.
This weekend's weakest new release was clearly Killer Elite. The action thriller starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro debuted in fifth with just $9.35 million. The film represents the first release from new distributor Open Road. In addition to generating this weekend's weakest opening, Killer Elite was also this weekend's most expensive new release, though it should be noted that production costs were handled largely by Omnilab Media. At the end of the day there simply wasn't enough room for Killer Elite to coexist with Moneyball this weekend.
Warner's Contagion held up quite respectably this weekend, especially when considering the amount of new competition in the marketplace this weekend. However, FilmDistrict's Drive wasn't as lucky as the film's midweek momentum didn't transfer over to the weekend. Contagion fell 42 percent to land in sixth with $8.45 million, while Drive fell 49 percent to take seventh with $5.76 million. Contagion has grossed a very solid $57.01 million 17 days. Drive has grossed a far less impressive $21.42 million in ten days.
This weekend's combined box office set a new record for the largest unadjusted September weekend ever with a total gross of $117.9 million. The current marketplace as a whole is being helped by an unusually high amount of strong September choices and the marketplace will only become more crowded next weekend with the release of three new wide releases and one new semi-wide release on Friday.
Additional Reporting by Phil Contrino.
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