Weekend Box Office: Animal Movies Continue to Surprise

Much to my surprise and completely against my predictions, two animal movies – one a 3D re-release and the other a painfully formulaic and blandly manipulative family drama – are dominating the box office. In its second weekend, ‘Dolphin Tale’ jumped from third place to first. Meanwhile, ‘The Lion King (in 3D)’, a 17-year-old film in the third weekend of its extended re-release, became the tenth highest grossing film of all time. The best of our new releases opened this weekend in fourth place. Ouch.

By only $58,000, a number so small that it could switch positions when the final box office totals come in this afternoon, ‘50/50‘ opened stronger than any of the other new movies this weekend. An odd fact about ’50/50’ is that Summit Entertainment sat on it for a while. (Watch the ‘Inception’ special features and you’ll notice Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a post-filming buzzed head.) With a 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the studio poorly underestimated how strong a film it had on its hands. Check out my five-star review now.

Coming in right behind ’50/50′ with $8.8 million was the faith-inspiring ‘Courageous‘. As the only new movie to out-perform expectations, the per-screen average for ‘Courageous’ is actually the best of the Top 10 films. At only 1,161 locations across the U.S., the movie averaged $7,580 per location. Not bad for a film that hardly featured any marketing at all. (I have yet to see a trailer, TV spot or online ad for it.)

The psychological horror flick ‘Dream House‘ opened in sixth place with $8.2 million. Not screened for press, I didn’t see ‘Dream House’ and don’t know anyone who has. Although I originally had a little hope for the film, the 8% Rotten Tomatoes consensus has stripped me of any hope and made me not want to ever see it: “Dream House is punishingly slow, stuffy, and way too obvious to be scary.”

Anna Faris’ R-rated romantic comedy ‘What’s Your Numer?‘ opened in eighth place with $5.6 million – barely more than one third of the opening weekend of the last comedy she lead, ‘The House Bunny’. Had the editor had a sense for Faris’ comedic timing, the film might have received better reviews and perhaps had a stronger opening.

While the limited-release horror comedy ‘Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil‘ didn’t make its way onto the early charts, ‘Take Shelter‘ did. The intimate psychological drama earned $56,200 despite opening in only three screens. That’s an average of $18,733 per screen, the second best per-screen average for the week. Starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, the film has received a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating and the official Luke Hickman Stamp of Approval. If you’re lucky enough to have ‘Take Shelter’ playing nearby, take advantage of the opportunity.

Top 10:

1. ‘Dolphin Tale’ (Warner Bros.) – $14,245,000

2. ‘Moneyball’ (Sony) – $12,500,000

3. ‘The Lion King (in 3D) – $11,057,000

4. ’50/50’ (Summit) – $8,858,000

5. ‘Courageous’ (TriStar) – $8,800,000

6. ‘Dream House’ (Universal) – $8,209,000

7. ‘Abduction’ (Lionsgate) – $5,650,000

8. ‘What’s Your Number?’ (Fox) – $5,600,000

9. ‘Contagion’ (Warner Bros.) – $5,040,000

10. ‘Killer Elite’ (Open Road) – $4,855,000

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