With four new films in wide release, plus another handful in limited engagements, the final weekend of September feels like the unofficial kick-off of the fall movie season. After all, this weekend brings a Brad Pitt Oscar favorite ('Moneyball'), a Taylor Lautner-led potential action juggernaut ('Abduction') and the latest Jason Statham meat grinder ('Killer Elite'). Plus, 'Dolphin Tale'! Which film will emerge victorious? Let's discuss ahead.

NATIONWIDE RELEASES

'Moneyball'

What's the story: Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in director Bennett Miller's adaptation of the Michael Lewis book 'Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.' Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt co-star.

Box office projection: The only thing tougher to sell mainstream audiences in 2011 than an adult-themed drama is an adult-themed drama about baseball. That said, 'Moneyball' has a lot in its favor: Brad Pitt is a superstar who has done a yeomanly job with the media over the last two weeks, the marketing campaign has focused on the inspirational aspects of the story, and critics are embracing the film like few released in the last month. 'Moneyball' probably won't be a phenomenon like 'The Social Network,' but it should still finish close to the top of the charts this weekend. Legs will follow if the film can capitalize on its Oscar buzz. Projection: $14.8 million



[Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews | Mr. Moviefone's 6-second Review]



'Abduction'
What's the story: 'Twilight' heartthrob Taylor Lautner stars as Nathan, a Pittsburgh-area teenager who goes on the run from shady government agents after realizing his parents aren't who they say. Lily Collins, Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver co-star

Box office projection: For Lautner, 'Abduction' represents a coming of age: not only does he curse and drink in the film for the first time, but the 'Twilight' star -- best known to his legion of fans as the loyal Jacob Black -- is the whole show. From a death-defying opening stunt on the hood of a car to the PNC Park-set finale in Pittsburgh, Lautner flexes his future leading-man chops. In an interview with Moviefone, Lautner said Tom Cruise was one of his idols. He won't get into Cruise's box office bracket just yet, but 'Abduction' could surprise -- especially thanks to the Twi-hards. Projection: $17.6 million



[Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews]





'Dolphin Tale'
What's the story: The inspirational tail tale about a boy, a dolphin that lost part of his tail in a crab trap and the attempts to get it swimming again. Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson star.

Box office projection: If you haven't read that much about 'Dolphin Tale,' that's probably because your not in the demographic Alcon Entertainment is marketing toward. The family film isn't likely to break records this weekend, but it's got the benefit of being one of the only family-friendly offerings in theaters -- a fact that helped 'The Lion King' greatly exceed expectations last week. Toss in a 3-D surcharge, and 'Tale' could find its way to double-digits. Maybe. Projection: $11.5 million



[Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews]



'Killer Elite'
What's the story: A retired British special forces agent (Jason Statham) must save his kidnapped mentor (Robert De Niro) from a mustachioed villain (Clive Owen). Explosions!

Box office projections: Prognosticating a Jason Statham film's opening weekend is fairly straightforward. With the exception of 'The Expendables,' his films usually start out with anywhere from $5 million to $12 million, before finding life on DVD and -- in the future, one assumes -- Spike TV. With the added starpower of Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, you might be tempted to push 'Killer Elite' into the mid-teens, but be wary: the marketing campaign for this one hasn't been nearly as all-encompassing as past Statham outings like 'The Mechanic' and 'Crank'. Projection: $9.1 million



[Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews]



LIMITED RELEASE

Gerard Butler leads 'Machine Gun Preacher,' the Marc Forster-directed biopic about real-life biker-turned-missionary Sam Childers. It expands to a wider release next week (showtimes & tickets). 'Puncture' stars 'Captain America' Chris Evans as a drug-addicted lawyer caught in the biggest case of his life (showtimes & tickets). For doc fans: 'Limelight' follows the rise and fall of New York City club impresario Peter Gatien, while 'Shut Up Little Man' details the one of the first viral sensations.

What movie will you see this weekend?
Moneyball42 (37.8%)
Abduction35 (31.5%)
Dolphin Tale10 (9.0%)
Killer Elite18 (16.2%)
Other6 (5.4%)


Photo: 'Moneyball' (Melinda Sue Gordon/Columbia), 'Abduction' (Bruce Talamon/Lionsgate), 'Dolphin Tale'
TAGS moneyball
CATEGORIES Movies, New Releases