As the number-crunching characters in 'Moneyball' could tell you, a player's stats don't always mesh with his actual earning power. Indeed, 'Moneyball' was favored to win the box office competition this weekend, but the contest saw the 3D version of 'The Lion King' repeat at No. 1, earning an estimated $22.1 million and fending off the Brad Pitt-led baseball flick and three other newcomers -- 'Dolphin Tale,' 'Abduction,' and 'Killer Elite.'
Still, it was a close game. Studio estimates put 'Lion King' just $1.5 million ahead of 'Moneyball,' which, in turn, was just $300,000 ahead of 'Dolphin Tale.' In fact, the game may have to go into extra innings (meaning, we may have to wait until final figures are released Monday) before a clear ranking of first, second and third place becomes apparent.
'Lion King' had been expected to drop about 40 percent from last weekend's 3D debut, to about $17 or $18 million, given the family-audience competition from 'Dolphin Tale.' But it slipped just 27 percent after having dominated the box office all week. In 10 days, the re-release has earned $61.7 million. Over its lifetime, the 1994 Disney classic has earned $390.2 million in North American theaters and a worldwide total of $858.1 million, making it the top hand-drawn animated movie of all-time and the third highest-grossing animated feature ever.
'Moneyball' had been expected to win the weekend with around $18 or $19 million, so despite its second-place finish, its $20.6 million take is actually better than expected. Brad Pitt can usually open a movie to the tune of about $24 million, but there were fears that a movie largely about baseball statistics might seem dry and esoteric to mass audiences. Nonetheless, the film earned some of the best reviews of the year for a wide-release movie, even drumming up Oscar buzz for Pitt. It's also the highest-grossing opening ever for a movie about baseball, outscoring 2006's 'The Benchwarmers' ($19.7 million).
'Dolphin Tale' also outperformed predictions, which were in the $14 to $16 million range. Credit its $20.3 million finish to better-than-expected reviews, excellent word-of-mouth, a release pattern that included many 3D screens and a targeted marketing campaign that focused on religious moviegoers and families that home-school their kids.
Opening in fourth place with an estimated $11.2 million (a bit lower than predictions of $12 to $13 million), 'Abduction' continued to prove that the 'Twilight' franchise stars are risky box office draws in movies that don't feature sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves. Granted, Taylor Lautner goes shirtless in this teen spy thriller often enough to put the abs in 'Abduction,' but the movie's strong word-of-mouth among teen girls was not enough to overcome almost unanimously negative reviews.
Besides, it had competition for the action/thriller crowd from 'Killer Elite,' which opened in fifth place with an estimated $9.5 million. That's about what was expected, even though the movie boasts the star power of Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. Despite being loosely based on a true story (and not on the Sam Peckinpah film 'The Killer Elite'), a movie in which Statham plays an assassin seeking payback probably seemed a little too been-there-done-that for action moviegoers. Mediocre pre-release buzz kept the movie from opening even as high as Statham's similar 'The Mechanic' ($11.4 million) from a few months ago.
The full top 10:
1. 'The Lion King,' $22.1 million (2,330 screens), $61.7 million total
2. 'Moneyball,' $20.6 million (2,993), new release
3. 'Dolphin Tale,' $20.3 million (3,507), new release
4. 'Abduction,' $11.2 million (3,118), new release
5. 'Killer Elite,' $9.5 million (2,986), new release
6. 'Contagion,' $8.5 million (3,136), $57.1 million
7. 'Drive,' $5.8 million (2,904), $21.4 million
8. 'The Help,' $4.4 million (2,695), $154.4 million
9. 'Straw Dogs,' $2.10 million (2,408), $8.9 million
10. 'I Don't Know How She Does It,' $2.05 million (2,490), $8.0 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.
Photo credits: Disney ('The Lion King'), Sony Pictures ('Moneyball'), Warner Bros. ('Dolphin Tale'), Lionsgate ('Abduction'), Open Road ('Killer Elite')
Related: 16 Upcoming Movie Remakes
Gallery | 16 Upcoming Movie Remakes
Out in October, the new version of 'Footloose' replaces Kevin Bacon with Kenny Wormald, simple Midwestern dancing with moves out of 'Step Up,' and Kenny Loggins with Blake Shelton. It's also -- judging from advance buzz -- actually pretty good. Cut loose?
The 1983 Matthew Broderick/Ally Sheedy computer thriller (which was the fifth biggest hit of that year) is getting an update thanks to 'Horrible Bosses' director Seth Gordon and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim. No word yet on who will play Matthew Broderick, but you might as well start imagining Shia LaBeouf in the role to prepare yourself just in case.
The Wild Bunch
Apparently the '80s aren't the only decade Hollywood likes to pillage for remakes. It was recently revealed that Tony Scott is considering a remake of the Sam Peckinpah-directed classic 'The Wild Bunch.' Hey, if it was good enough for 'Straw Dogs'...
Not that 'The Wild Bunch' is the only remake on Tony Scott's mind. Deadline also reported that the director is hot to continue/remake his '80s classic 'Top Gun.'
Because Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colin Farrell are so similar, here comes a Farrell-led remake of 'Total Recall.' Though, truthfully, this remake owes more to the original Phillip K. Dick short story than the classic Paul Verhoeven-directed film. Farrell won't even get his ass to Mars in the actioner, which is due out next August.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Produced by Michael Bay, this new (new) incarnation of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' will come courtesy of the screenwriters behind 'Iron Man.' Not bad! Turtle power?
Meanwhile, in unhappy production news: Tim Hill, the director behind 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' and 'Hop,' was hired to helm the planned 'Short Circuit' remake. Johnny Five is alive. With poop jokes.
Once earmarked for Darren Aronofsky, the long in-development 'RoboCop' remake may go before cameras with Jose Padilha as director.
Rechristened 'Dredd,' the remake of the Sylvester Stallone comic adventure you didn't like stars Karl Urban ('Star Trek') and Olivia Thirlby ('Juno'). No Rob Schneider, sadly. It'll hit theaters in 2012.
Another long developing reboot of a trashy '80s property, 'Highlander' recently locked down a director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. He replaced the attached Justin Lin ('Fast Five') last week. Hopefully Christopher Lambert shows up for the new version.
Bradley Cooper and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo were set to remake 'The Crow' for Relativity Media, but Cooper dropped out of the project recently. With Fresnadillo already lined up for 'Highlander,' you have to wonder when 'The Crow' will actually fly again. (Groan! But you were thinking of that joke anyway.)
A Star is Born
Remade three times already (and with an unofficial remake of the story hitting theaters in November with release of 'The Artist'), 'A Star is Born' is one of Hollywood's most popular past remakes. Clint Eastwood is set to direct the new version, with Beyonce playing the leading role made famous previously by Judy Garland and Babra Streisand. The start-date of the film was delayed recently due to Beyonce's pregnancy.
Unlike most of the remakes on this list, 'Oldboy' wasn't an '80s blockbuster or seminal classic. Instead, it's a beloved cult film from South Korean director Park Chan-wook that may be even more violent than 'Drive.' Spike Lee is attached for the twisted remake, with Josh Brolin in line to star.
Wolverines! This remake was caught in the development hell created in the wake of MGM's financial troubles, but it's slated to get released sometime this year. Fun fact: star Chris Hemsworth made 'Red Dawn' before becoming an actual star with 'Thor.'
Vaya con dios. A remake of 'Point Break' was announced last week; Moviefone has some casting suggestions.
'Red Dawn,' 'Point Break,' 'Dirty Dancing,' a musical version of 'Ghost': Hollywood loves them some classic Patrick Swayze. Can a 'Father Hood' remake be far behind?