Box Office Results for September 23, 2011

This weekend, multiplexes across North America were busier than normal for this time of the year as the hit re-release The Lion King 3D held onto the number one spot for a second frame driving the box office to a new record high for the month of September.  Moviegoers also lined up for Seven partners Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as their new releases Moneyball and Dolphin Tale both debuted higher than expected in close battle for second place.  For the first time in history, three different films grossed north of $20M on the same September weekend as the Top 20 soared to a stellar $115M – a new record for the back-to-school month.

Thanks to a remarkable sophomore hold, The Lion King 3D ruled over the charts for a second weekend in a row just as the original blockbuster did back in June 1994.  The G-rated re-release slipped only 27% and grossed an estimated $22.1M boosting its ten-day cume to a fantastic $61.7M.  Despite intense competition for kids and parents, the Hakuna Matata pic remained wildly popular with a wide array of moviegoers allowing it to cling to the number one spot.  The Lion King‘s lifetime total (including 2003’s IMAX release) climbed to $390.2M, putting it at number 12 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.

Actor/producer Brad Pitt clinched second place but still scored a major victory with critics and movie fans alike with his baseball drama Moneyball, which opened to an estimated $20.6M.  The Columbia release averaged a solid $6,883 per site from 2,993 locations and played to a much older adult crowd although the gender split was about even.  Studio research showed that 64% of the audience was over 35 while males made up 51%.  Based on the true story of how the 2002 Oakland Athletics rebuilt their team after losing their best players, Moneyball earned high praise across the board from film critics.  Moviegoers were equally pleased with the PG-13 pic earning a promising A CinemaScore.

With strong reviews, stellar word-of-mouth, and an older audience not likely to rush out on opening weekend, Moneyball is well-positioned to enjoy solid legs in the weeks ahead.  Baseball is about to start its post-season so the film will remain topical for weeks to come.  Plus Brad Pitt is earning plenty of Oscar buzz for his acting performance, which will keep the film hot too.  Overseas prospects are promising too despite the baseball theme because of Pitt’s incredible box office pull around the world.  With a reported $50M production cost, Moneyball may be able to find its way to $250M or more worldwide.

Another uplifting film based on a true story opened close behind in third.  The Warner Bros. and Alcon release Dolphin Tale scored big points with audiences collecting an estimated $20.3M this weekend averaging a good $5,777 from 3,507 locations.  Playing in 2D and Real D Digital 3D, the PG-rated tale about an injured dolphin and the people who help her saw 50% of its gross come from the extra-dimensional screens.  Reviews were very good and audiences loved what they saw giving Dolphin Tale an amazing A+ CinemaScore grade.  Saturday saw a tremendous 70% leap in ticket sales over opening day giving it the best jump in the top ten.  Strong legs will keep this feel-good film going in the weeks ahead.  Starring Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., and Ashley Judd, Dolphin Tale‘s performance was especially impressive given how much of the family audience is already distracted by The Lion King 3D right now.  If none of next weekend’s four new releases truly pop then Moneyball and Dolphin Tale could find themselves in another fierce battle – this time for the number one spot.

Teen girls came out in lukewarm numbers for their favorite shirtless werewolf Taylor Lautner, who saw an estimated $11.2M opening for his first starring vehicle AbductionLionsgate went very wide with the PG-13 action film going out in 3,118 theaters, which resulted in a mild $3,592 average.  The distributor rarely releases a film in 3,000+ playdates.  Studio research showed that the audience was 68% female and 56% under 25 indicating that the critically-panned film struggled to find appeal outside of its primary young-female quadrant, which was turned off by the guns and explosions and lack of sparkly vampires.  But at least Lautner found more success than his Twilight co-stars and broke double digit millions.  Kristen Stewart‘s Adventureland from Miramax bowed to just $5.7M while Robert Pattinson‘s Remember Me from Summit debuted to $8.1M.  The vampire heartthrob did score a nice hit earlier this year with the romance Water for Elephants from Fox 2000, which opened to $16.8M, however that film was led by Oscar Winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz.

Rookie distributor Open Road saw a slow start with its first release Killer Elite, which posted an estimated $9.5M.  The R-rated actioner starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro averaged $3,182 from 2,986 theaters.  Reviews from critics were mostly negative but audiences were somewhat kinder to the film, which earned a B grade from CineamScore.

Holdovers rounded out the top ten with mixed results.  The virus thriller Contagion help up well with an estimated $8.6M, off 41%, for a $57.1M cume for Warner Bros.  All the love showered by critics on the crime drama Drive failed to do much as the FilmDistrict release fell 49% to an estimated $5.8M giving the Ryan Gosling starrer $21.4M in ten days.  Drive averaged a slow $1,987 per location this weekend from 2,904 sites.

The Help followed with an estimated $4.4M, down just 32%, giving Touchstone and DreamWorks $154.4M to date.  Screen Gems‘ remake Straw Dogs collapsed in its second outing tumbling 59% to an estimated $2.1M and a measly $8.9M in ten days.  Also rejected by moviegoers, Sarah Jessica Parker‘s comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It dropped 53% to an estimated $2.1M.  The Weinstein Co. has taken in a paltry $8M.

Gerard Butler‘s Africa-set action drama Machine Gun Preacher got off to a good start in platform release with an estimated $44,000 from two theaters each in New York and Los Angeles for a $11,000 average.  Drawing mixed reviews, the R-rated film expands to 15 major markets on Friday through Relativity.

The top ten films grossed a September record $106.6M, which was up 20% from last year when 20th Century Fox‘s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opened in the top spot with $19M; and up 34% from 2009 when Sony Pictures Animation‘s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs remained at number one with $25M in its second weekend.

September 23, 2011 to September 25, 2011 Top Ten



1.   The Lion King: In Disney Digital 3D

2.   Moneyball

  • $20,600,000
  • Columbia Pictures (Sony)

3.   Dolphin Tale

  • $20,300,000
  • a Warner Bros. release (Time Warner)
  • Alcon Entertainment

4.   Abduction

  • $11,200,000
  • Lionsgate (Lions Gate Entertainment)

5.   Killer Elite

  • $9,500,000
  • an Open Road release (Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment)
  • Omnilab Media

6.   Contagion

  • $8,600,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (Time Warner)

7.   Drive

8.   The Help

9.   Straw Dogs

  • $2,100,000
  • Screen Gems (Sony)

10. I Don’t Know How She Does It

  • $2,100,000
  • The Weinstein Company


September 24, 2010 to September 26, 2010 Top Ten



1.   Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

  • $19,011,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

2.   Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

  • $16,112,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (Time Warner)

3.   The Town

  • $15,605,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (Time Warner)

4.   Easy A

  • $10,600,000
  • Screen Gems (Sony)

5.   You Again

  • $8,408,000
  • Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

6.   Devil

7.   Resident Evil: Afterlife

8.   Alpha and Omega

9.   Takers

  • $1,622,000
  • Screen Gems (Sony)

10. Inception

  • $1,247,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (Time Warner)


September 25, 2009 to September 27, 2009 Top Ten



1.   Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

  • $25,039,000
  • Sony Pictures Animation (Sony)

2.   Surrogates

  • $14,903,000
  • Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

3.   Fame

4.   The Informant!

  • $6,624,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (Time Warner)

5.   I Can Do Bad All By Myself

6.   Pandorum

  • $4,424,000
  • an Overture release (Liberty Starz)
  • Constantin Film

7.   Love Happens

  • $4,308,000
  • Universal Pictures (NBCUniversal)

8.   Jennifer’s Body

9.   9

10. Inglourious Basterds

  • $2,683,000
  • The Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures (NBCUniversal)

~ by Matt Whitfield on September 28, 2011.

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