Lion King Continues Box Office Reign
By John Hamann
September 25, 2011
It continues to be the renaissance of summer 1994 once again, as four newcomers couldn't take down The Lion King 3D. Stories of childhoods remembered are everywhere these days, as the 3D recycling of the classic appears to have hit a nerve with some filmgoers (for others, the nerve hit involves dentistry). The good news is that there are good films out there this weekend NOT made in 1994, as Moneyball with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill opened this weekend, along with Dolphin Tale, the well-reviewed story of a boy trying to save a dolphin. Also opening were Killer Elite with DeNiro, Clive Owen and Jason Statham, and Abduction, a film we wouldn't have to deal with had the Twilight movies not made so much money.
The number one movie of the weekend (again) is The Lion King 3D, Disney's extremely effective ploy to make even more money by recycling their old films, George Lucas style. After a ridiculously successful opening weekend at $30 million, The Lion King 3D held quite well this weekend, earning another $22.1 million and dropping a slim 27%. I am surprised the drop is as low as it is this weekend, as The Lion King could have been a one weekend wonder. However, that nostalgic touch mixed with a current 3D update seems to be working for some. George Lucas made about $140 million dressing up Star Wars for a re-release, and it's starting to look like Disney may do the same here, depending on how long this one stays in release. The current take from this re-release stands at $61.7 million.
Second is Moneyball, the new film based on the Michael Lewis book. Moneyball was just that this weekend, as the baseball movie managed to earn $20.6 million from 2,993 venues. This was the expected start for the Brad Pitt/Jonah Hill starrer, as tracking estimates were right on target. Sony is the distributor behind the Michael De Luca/Scott Rudin production, and should be credited for putting together a strong team to make this movie (much like Pitt's character does with Oakland A's). Aaron Sorkin (Oscar winner for The Social Network) adapted Moneyball from the math-heavy baseball book, and it then got a re-write from Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List). The film was directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), produced by Scott Rudin (True Grit, The Social Network) and Michael De Luca (Magnolia, Dark City), and has a cast that includes Pitt, Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright. For a September release, this is an all-star team, and the reviews reflect that. Moneyball is 94% fresh at RottenTomatoes from all critics, with top critics coming in at 97%. Should the rest of the fall/winter Oscar bait fail, look for Moneyball to receive a healthy number of nominations, especially with this strong opening frame.
For Brad Pitt, Moneyball continues a white hot streak for the actor. Since 2004's Troy, the actor has had seven films finish with a domestic total over $100 million, and seven films finish with an international total over $300 million. Two films – Troy and Mr. and Mrs. Smith – have both been a hair away from the half-billion mark worldwide. With Coogan's Trade and World War Z coming, it doesn't look like the shine will come off of Pitt for awhile to come.