Weekend Box Office: 'Lion King' Beats Back 'Moneyball,' Boy Brawler 'Abduction' To Keep #1 Slot

by Gabe Toro
September 25, 2011 4:35 AM
8 Comments
  • |


"Hakuna Matata!" proclaims Disney, discovering what amounts to an entirely new revenue stream. “The Lion King 3D” has taken the crown decisively for the second straight weekend with $22 million, amidst some otherwise heavy fall competition that was a lot buzzier and, without a doubt, more expensive. The original plan was to play the film for two weeks, but after ten days, it’s been far and away the biggest movie attraction, and the film will be extending its stay at the multiplexes which could add nearly $40 million to the coffers.

Studios are trying to cut back on extravagant expenses, and what could be more cost-effective than paying to convert existing movies to 3D, advertise and release them on 2500 screens, and count profit? Disney is in a better position that other studios, having the advantage of the mysterious “vault” that houses past animated classics, only released to the marketplace every few years, like imprisoned delinquents unleashed on a playground. It’s not hard to see a future where studios release far fewer films per year, relying on the cheap 3D-ification of past titles for the majority of their profits.


Baseball is the subject matter of very few box office hits, but Sony pretty much hit what they were aiming for with this weekend's $20.6 million haul for “Moneyball.” For Pitt, this falls somewhere between "Burn After Reading" and “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button,” both of which had considerable legs, and given the very strong critical response and likely good word of mouth, the studio is hoping they can repeat last year's "The Social Network" which wound up sticking around for astonishing 22 weeks in theaters thanks to Oscar buzz.

While, Pitt is still carrying a movie not about baseball but about statistics -- a fact that Sony somewhat proudly didn’t hide in their pricey marketing campaign -- with Jonah Hill in a serious role, and a somber, almost elegiac tone that screams ADULTS ONLY, the key will be finding a way to get younger audiences involved. A factor the Facebook movie had by default. Still, the previous biggest opener for a baseball movie was “The Benchwarmers,” and that’s just disgraceful.

After weeks of strong audience tracking, “Dolphin Tale” opened well, and just a shade under the much more expensive “Moneyball.” “Dolphin Tale” arrived in theaters where there is a current dearth of family entertainment -- another big reason why 'Lion King' has been cleaning up -- and the inoffensive ad campaign enticed those looking for something innocuous to pass the time. It looks like parents and kids who caught up with Simba last week opted to take a swim this film this weekend.

As for “Abduction” and “The Killer Elite,” it seems audiences were not in the mood for run-of-the-mill action movies. The Taylor Lautner starring “Abduction” opened somewhat weaker than the mainstream efforts of his fellow “Twilight” stars, and a lukewarm audience reception suggests that this could struggle to hit $30 million total, a very weak number that's in line with recent Lionsgate flops “Conan The Barbarian” and “Warrior.” Moreover, it casts doubt on the future of Taylor Lautner as a leading man as the young thesp has spent the last year being groomed as the next big action star. The industry has now been burned twice with pre-anointing their next muscle ripped heroes (please see Jason Momoa) so if you don't hear anything about "Stretch Armstrong" for the next little while, don't be too surprised. And we will have all lived a much fuller life.

“The Killer Elite,” meanwhile, was a bummer for newbie distributors Open Road, who got the project in Cannes and slept on the marketing (why they unveiled the much more effective red-band trailer one day before its release is beyond us). This single digit opening weekend falls on the low end of Jason Statham openers, and further confirms that Clive Owen is completely invisible to modern audiences. Open Road was able to purchase the domestic rights on the cheap, but people notice when a movie costs $70 million plus and can't crack eight figures in its opening weekend.

In weekend three, “Contagion” continues to flash some strong gams, approaching $60 million, a number the film should hit by mid-week. Warner Bros. has to be somewhat pleased, though with those stars attached, the expectations are usually higher. While the film stayed above “Drive,” that picture’s second frame maintained steady ground despite the rocky audience reception, and is well on its way to a decent theatrical life and solid ancillaries. Megahit “The Help” boasted the lowest percentage drop in the top ten aside from “The Lion King 3D,” and sticks around in the top ten. And look out below, as “I Don’t Know How She Does It” and “Straw Dogs” backed up the rear in their journey towards being forgotten forever.

In limited release, a couple of A-Listers clashed in smaller, social-issue movies. Gerard Butler looks like the winner, with "Machine Gun Preacher" debuting to $44k on four screens. Chris Evans' legal drama "Puncture" also opened at four locations, but could only gross $35.7k. The week's biggest specialty release was "Thunder Soul," which grossed $55.8k, but that was on thirty five screens, a less-than-muscular per-screen average. In other music doc news, "Pearl Jam: Twenty" pulled in $89k at nine locations. The biggest average of the week went to romantic drama "Weekend," which logged $25k at its single NYC location, with an expansion coming soon.

Continuing to expand, and already the most successful limited release of the season so far, is "Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain." A minor expansion into 287 screens allowed the film to post an almost negligible audience drop from weekend two, and with $1.2 million this weekend, the picture has totaled $5.2 million in only three weekends. "My Afternoons With Margueritte" posted a decent second weekend hold, expanding from two to twenty nine theaters, collecting $77k, while "Incendiary" debuted with a single screen take of $6.2k, a little under the on-screen $9k take of "Limelight." "The Mill And The Cross" grabbed a solid second weekend gross, with $17k on five screens and a two week total of $39k. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.

1. The Lion King 3D (Disney) -- $22.1 million ($63 mil.)
2. Stats 'N Bats (Sony) -- $20.6 million
3. Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.) -- $20.3 million
4. Wolf Boy Chase (Lionsgate) -- $11.2 million
5. The Killer Elite (Open Road) -- $9.5 million
6. Contagion (Warner Bros.) -- $8.5 million ($57 mil.)
7. Vroom (FilmDistrict) -- $5.8 million ($22 mil.)
8. White Savior Saves All (Disney) -- $4.4 million ($155 mil.)
9. Straw Dogs (Sony) -- $2.1 million ($9 mil.)
10. I Don’t Know How She Does it, But It's Probably Black Magic (Weinstein Company) - $2 million ($8 mil.)
(all total domestic grosses so far)

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

8 Comments

  • Twi-harder | September 27, 2011 7:26 AMReply

    Every movie Kristen Stewart makes flops at the box office. Her Snow White movie will too, she is not a draw. There are plenty of people who have successful Indie movies, stop using that excuse for her. Pattinson's 'Water for Elephants' was based a best-selling Oprah approved book. It should have made a fortune but it did just O.K. Abduction is an action movie that should have attracted men at $20 plus million, but it didn't happen. All three twilight actors will have problems in the future. They are limited actors riding the wave of current Twilight fame and tabloid headlines.

  • Ian | September 25, 2011 12:39 PMReply

    How badly do you think Disney is regretting Lion King's bluray release next week?

  • Scott Mandelson | September 25, 2011 9:01 AMReply

    @Lord

    Gotta disagree.

    Get R-Patz and K-Stew outside of the ridiculous,abhorrent franchise that is Twilight, and they are good actors.

    R-Patz did a indie movie called Little Ashes where he plays Salvador Dali, I thought he was fantastic in that role. It's a quirky movie though and you have to go into it with an open mind.

    It's a movie his younger fans probably shouldn't see.

  • Lord | September 25, 2011 8:52 AMReply

    Pattinson and Stewart can't act no matter how much their PR people hype them and the media sells them. Water For Elephants didn't completely flop because it's based on a popular book. Stewart's films all flop and her Snow White film will too because it will come after the Julia Robert's one and it's released around the same time as Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

  • d | September 25, 2011 8:49 AMReply

    Stewart's indies all flopped because they were bad and people loath her.

  • Janek Podhajecki | September 25, 2011 8:31 AMReply

    Is anyone really surprised that Twilight fans didn't show up to Lautner's movie? Hollywood seems to think that if you have a Twilight star in your movie it automatically means bank. Pattinson is the only one who will bring in the bucks,not just domestically, but it appears worldwide too.

    I'm in two minds whether or not to go see Abduction. I don't want to waste my money and time on what appears to be an absolutely terrible movie, but I might go and see it just for the laughs.

    Given the reviews of Lautner's performance, the guy better strike while the Twilight iron is hot. Pattinson and Stewart are actually making good choices for their present and future's (looking forward to On The Road and can't fkn wait for Cosmopolis). Those two are picking quality projects with quality people which should and I think will, give them longevity in the business, it also helps that they can actually act , where as this guy doesn't seem to have the chops to do anything other than action flicks, and he apparently isn't even any good in them.

    And for some reason unbeknown to me, I'm actually loving the fact the the Lion King is topping the Box Office LOL

  • paul | September 25, 2011 8:20 AMReply

    i think taylors dad has a lot to do with push to crown him the next big action star. the guy is over 18, might be time to think about cutting the strings.

  • Alex | September 25, 2011 5:14 AMReply

    Feeling bad for the wolf kid being treated like a product, OIC his father producing the movie. Checking BOM Pattison opened Water for elephants ~17m to ~120 total and it was a drama. Abduction is an action movie directed by John Singleton, projections around ~36 USA to ~70 total. Stewart's indies are, well, indies, as it was Remember me. Snow white and the huntsman should be her big test. Wish them good luck.

Email Updates