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Weekend Wrap-Up: New Releases are Money, King Still Reigns

September 26th, 2011

It was a very good weekend at the box office, compared to the average for this time of year. None of the four wide releases were real bombs, although a couple opened soft, they were within the range of expectations. Also, The Lion King held on even better than expected leading the way for the second weekend in a row. This helped the film grow just over 16% from last weekend to $117 million. More importantly, the overall box office was close to 17% higher than this weekend last year. Not only did The Lion King top Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps's opening, so did Moneyball and Dolphin Tale. Year-to-date, 2011 is still behind 2010 by 4% at $7.85 billion to $8.14 billion, but a few more wins like this and that gap will start to close.

Before The Lion King's 3D re-release, it was sitting in 24th place on the all time chart with $328 million. After pulling in $21.93 million over the weekend, it is sitting a week away from crossing $400 million in total and entering the top ten. Granted, the 3D Blu-ray comes out next week, which will obviously impact the film's box office numbers, but I don't think there were many people at the studio who were expecting the film to make this much, so they have to be very happy with the results.

The studio should also be happy with Moneyball's second place opening with $19.50 million, which is a little higher than predicted. Additionally, with Oscar-worthy reviews, it could have very strong legs. I would compare it to The Social Network. Granted, that film did open better, but it had Oscar buzz for months before its release, so a faster start is expected. I don't think Moneyball will reach $100 million, but it could show strong legs and $80 million or more is not out of the question.

Dolphin Tale was right behind with $19.15 million, which is a great start for a live action family film. With its target demographic, reviews that were more than 80% positive, and a CinemaScore of A+, it could have long legs at the box office. With no direct competition till Puss in Boots opens in November, this film will have families mostly to itself for four weeks. With a production budget of $37 million, it should have no trouble breaking even before it reaches the home market.

Abduction wasn't able to capitalize on Taylor Lautner's name recognition, but it also wasn't a complete flop with $10.93 million during its opening weekend. That is on the low range of expectations, but it could have been worse. On the other hand, its reviews are among the worst of the year and best case scenario is most people forgetting about it quickly. What's the worst case scenario? It hangs around Taylor Lautner's career like an anchor.

The Killer Elite opening was also on the low end of expectations with $9.3 million. This is on the low end of Jason Statham's career average, as were the reviews. Unfortunately, the film cost a lot to make, $70 million, and Open Road only had to cover the P&A costs for the domestic rights. Unless this film is a shockingly strong hit internationally, I can't see the studio breaking even any time soon.

The sophomore class wasn't particularly strong this weekend and only Drive held on reasonably well. It was still down 49% to $5.76 million over the weekend for a total of $21.42 million after two. I suspect its theater count will take a hit this weekend, while it will be barely cross $30 million in total. On the other hand, Straw Dogs fell nearly 60% to just $2.05 million over the weekend and $8.84 million. I Don't Know How She Does It was right behind with $2.00 million over the past three days and $7.97 million after ten. Both of these films are complete bombs.