Weekend Wrap-Up

Lion King Continues Box Office Reign

By John Hamann

September 25, 2011

Jungle boogie.

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Third this weekend is Dolphin Tale, another very well-reviewed flick. Made for families, Dolphin Tale could not compete with repeat viewings of The Lion King, but may have won over some old-school audience looking for new entertainment. Dolphin Tale earned a solid $20.3 million from a very wide 3,507 venues. Marketed like and in front of Soul Surfer, Warner Bros. was looking for that faith-based family crowd, and got it this weekend. Dolphin Tale was made for $37 million, and given the strong opening frame and capacity for strong legs, this could end up as a quiet jewel for Warner Bros. The strategy around making this one – much like Moneyball – was sound, as they recruited Charles Martin Smith to direct (and promote) this one, with a cast that includes safe names like Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman. Critics loved it, and so do audiences. At RottenTomatoes, the film garnered an 83% fresh rating, and earned an 87% score from "Top Critics." The Cinemascore was even better, coming in at a rare A+. The only sad thing about the release of Dolphin Tale is the question we will never know the answer to: Had Disney not re-re-released The Lion King, how much better would have this one done?

Fourth is Abduction, Taylor Lautner's attempt to get into something other than a Twilight film. There were enough Twi-hards out this weekend to keep Abduction's head above the water, but this one is going to disappear quickly. Abduction earned $11.2 million from 3,118 venues. Distributed by Lionsgate, Abduction cost $35 million to bring to the big screen, so won't be too much of a money loser for the studio. Reviews were of course laughable, with only two critics out of 56 finding something to like at RottenTomatoes.

Fifth is Killer Elite, the new action flick with Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro. Killer Elite is not the cream of the crop this weekend, but still managed an okay opening, likely based on star power alone. Killer Elite earned $9.5 million from 2,750 venues, slightly below where tracking was indicating it might end up. This is actually an Australian production, with some of the $70 million in financing coming from the Australian government. Upstart distributor Open Road picked up the domestic rights for an undisclosed price, and paid to market the action film. In my mind, this opening is about on target for a Jason Statham film, and I still consider him to be an A-Lister in waiting.

Finishing sixth is Contagion, Steven Soderbergh's plague movie. Following a weekend at number one, then a weekend at number two, Contagion stumbles amidst a crop of new film this weekend. The A-list extravaganza earned another $8.6 million in its third weekend, and was off 41% from last weekend. The $60 million film has now earned $57.1 million, and after international grosses are counted, will be a decent sized hit for Warner Bros. and Participant Media, who is having a great late summer, as they were one of the principals behind The Help.


Drive tumbles to seventh this weekend as despite some extremely solid reviews for the Ryan Gosling starrer, it hasn't equated to great box office or even good word-of-mouth. Drive earned $5.8 million in its second frame and dropped 49%. The $13 million picture is already a success for Film District, as it has earned $21.4 million. International grosses will prop this one up even further, before it goes on to likely have a strong release on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Help drops to eighth as it enjoys its seventh weekend in the top ten. The Help earned another $4.4 million and dropped 32%, as its big earning weekends are now in the rearview mirror. Let's not forget that The Help was made for a measly $25 million, and has now earned a gargantuan $154.4 million.

Ninth is Straw Dogs, the inept remake of the Sam Peckinpah flick. After a disappointing debut of $5.1 million, the news gets worse for this one, as it only earns $2.1 million in its second weekend. That's a drop of 59%, and brings the cume up to only $8.8 million.

Tenth is I Don't Know How She Does It, the Sarah Jessica Parker failure. After opening to only $4.4 million last weekend, this drops 53% this weekend, earning $2 million. I Don't Know has a brutal running total of only $8 million after two weekends of release.

Overall this weekend, the box office is up quite a bit compared to last year. This year, the top 12 earned $109.1 million, thanks to a fairly strong top five. A year ago, the top 12 earned $90.8 million on the back of Wall Street 2, which opened to $19 million. Next weekend brings the well-reviewed 50/50 with Joesph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, Dream House with Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz, and What's Your Number, the new comedy with Anna Faris.

Top Weekend Box Office for 9/23/11-9/25/11 (Estimates)
Rank Film Distributor Estimated Gross Weekly Change Running Total
1 The Lion King 3d WALT DISNEY $22,130,000 -27% $61,676,000
2 Moneyball SONY $20,600,000 New $20,600,000
3 Dolphin Tale Warner Bros. $20,260,000 New $20,260,000
4 Abduction Lions Gate $11,200,000 New $11,200,000
5 Killer Elite Open Road Films $9,500,000 New $9,500,000
6 Contagion Warner Bros. $8,565,000 - 41% $57,122,000
7 Drive FilmDistrict $5,771,107 -49% $21,424,482
8 The Help DreamWorks $4,400,000 - 32% $154,444,000
9 Straw Dogs Sony/Screen Gems $2,100,000 - 59% $8,884,000
10 I Don't Know How She Does It Weinstein Co. $2,053,000 - 53% $8,019,000
11 The Debt Focus Features $1,288,598 - 56% $29,000,000
12 Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain Vivendi/codeblack $1,225,000 +3% $5,260,000
  Also Opening/Notables
  Thunder Soul Roadside Attractions $55,000 New $55,000
  Machine Gun Preacher Relativity $44,000 New $44,000
  Puncture $35,714 New $35,714
  Weekend IFC Films $25,000 New $25,000
  Incendiary Truly Indie $6,179 New $6,179
  Warrior Lionsgate $1,080,000 - 62% $12,170,291
  Rise of the Planet of the Apes Twentieth Century Fox $1,175,000 - 56% $173,613,523
Box office data supplied by Exhibitor Relations
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