Weekend Box Office: The Lion King Doesn’t Sleep, Moneyball Hits A Double

Could it possibly be that studio-backed revivals are the new television? Re-releases have been a rarity, but with the success of The Lion King‘s two-week run in theaters studios may be rethinking catalog titles they can freshen up and re-release. For the second straight weekend it takes the top spot with $22 million, only a drop of 26.6% from last week’s $30 million haul. Because the movie has been so dominate these two weekends, Disney is extending it for a few more weeks.

Columbia Pictures may have hoped that Moneyball would hit a homerun this weekend, but if it weren’t a lion proving to be both the king of the jungle and the box office, it had to settle for second. A sports film with very little on-field action, this should have substantial legs. It’s already getting some strong Oscar buzz, and critics are falling over themselves singing its praises (just like last year’s The Social Network, another Columbia release) with nine perfect scores on Metacritic and an aggregate score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. For Brad Pitt, its $20.6 million opening falls in the same territory as the Coens’ Burn After Reading, which opened at $19.1 million. What’s sad is that the previous baseball-related movie that had a big opening was the Happy Madison production The Benchwarmers.

Opening in the wake of Disney’s kid-dominated Lion King was Dolphin Tale. Those parents that took their kids to see the circle of life in action in Africa, decided to get their feet wet and go swimming with a tailless dolphin.

There was an audience split for Abduction and Killer Elite. Both were run-of-the-mill action thrillers. One was PG-13, while the other was levied with a restricted rating. It was the first big test for Twilight star Taylor Lautner to see if he could carry a movie without the need of a sparkling vampire and a girl with dishwater hair. Sadly, Lautner isn’t quite ready for prime-time, as he was one of the weakest parts in the standard John Singleton-directed thriller. Add this to the list of Lionsgate recent failures, after Conan the Barbarian and Warrior.

Killer Elite came courtesy of new distributor Open Road, who picked it up at Cannes. Apparently their marketing department isn’t all the way in place. That may explain why it didn’t release its much better red-band trailer until the day before its release. The period piece actioneer may have been better than Jason Statham’s The Mechanic (released in January) but sadly more went to see that over this.

Contagion continues to plague the box office in its third week as it is quickly approaching $60 million. It did just enough to say ahead of Drive, which is polarizing audiences. Some either love it or hate it. Considering its low cost to produce, $22 million after two weeks isn’t bad for young upstart FilmDistrict.

The Help continues to be a box office staple in its seventh weekend in the top 10. Chalk that up to the second-lowest percentage drop in the top ten behind The Lion King. Straw Dogs and I Don’t Know How She Does It continue to die quick deaths and will be gone from the top ten and the public’s conscious by next week.

Looking at some of the smaller new releases this week, the musical documentary Thunder Soul, about the famed Kashmere High School band, opened on 35 screens and collected $55k. The Gerard Butler starring Machine Gun Preacher dropped on four screens and made $44k. And the Chris Evans-going-fishing-with-Oscar-bait release Puncture opened on four screens for $35.7 million.

1. The Lion King 3D – $22.1 million ($61.6 million)
2. Moneyball – $20.6 million
3. Dolphin Tale – $20.3 million
4. Abduction – $11.2 million
5. Killer Elite – $9.5 million
6. Contagion – $8.6 million ($57 million)
7. Drive – $5.7 million ($21.4 million)
8. The Help – $4.4 million ($154 million)
9. Straw Dogs — $2.1 million ($8.9 mil)
10. I Don’t Know How She Does It – $2 million ($8 million)

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