Weekend Box Office: ‘Lion’ Still Roaring

How embarrassing is it for new releases that ‘The Lion King’ is #1 again? For the second week in a row, the 3D re-release of a 17-year-old movie has dominated the box office. Only falling 26.6% in attendance, ‘The Lion King (in 3D)‘ earned another $22 million. That’s pretty shocking considering that it beat out two Rotten Tomatoes “Certified Fresh” films. Now ranking in 12th place for best domestic release of all time, ‘The Lion King’ has grossed $390 million in all. How much do you want to bet that the ‘Lion King’ limited two-week run gets an extension next week?

Billy Beane just can’t come in first place. He can’t seem to get his A’s to the World Series, and the film ‘Moneyball‘ that depicts his life couldn’t dethrone ‘The Lion King’. Touted as an Oscar-worthy film with notable performances, writing and directing, ‘Moneyball’ tells Beane’s story from the 2001 and 2002 MLB seasons when he hired an economic analyst to apply a mathematical theory to his team’s recruitment strategies. When the unconventional system began to work, Beane became a managing legend, and the game was forever changed. Sadly, the strong Brad Pitt vehicle didn’t generate the opening weekend response it deserved.

The 3D family-friendly, animal-centric ‘Dolphin Tale‘ opened so close to ‘Moneyball’ that it’s highly possible for the films to switch positions when the final box office numbers roll in this afternoon. As of now, ‘Moneyball’ is estimated at $20.6 million and ‘Dolphin Tale’ at $20.2 million. Even if they swap places, ‘Moneyball’ will walk away the real winner with attendance numbers. You see, 50% of the weekend gross for ‘Dophin Tale’ stemmed from costly 3D showings.

Taylor Lautner’s showed how much star power he has this weekend – none – with the opening of his first leading feature film, ‘Abduction‘. Earning $11.2 million, with audiences that were 68% female and 56% under the age of 25, it looks like only his ‘Twilight’ fans were interested in seeing Lautner put the “ab” in ‘Abduction’.

The fact that terrible Taylor Lautner beat out the action flick ‘Killer Elite‘ shows how little general audiences think of stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. Out of the four new wide releases, ‘Killer Elite’ opened in last place with $9.5 million. As much as I can’t stand Lautner, I’m glad to see that he defeated three has-been actors and their WWE-looking action flick.

Although this weekend’s numbers may not seem that impressive, Box Office Mojo reports that the $116 million box office tally makes it the highest-grossing September weekend ever.

Top 10:

1. ‘The Lion King (in 3D)’ (Buena Vista) – $22,130,000

2. ‘Moneyball’ (Sony) – $20,600,000

3. ‘Dolphin Tale’ (Warner Bros.) – $20,260,000

4. ‘Abduction’ (Lionsgate) – $11,200,000

5. ‘Killer Elite’ (Open Road) – $9,500,000

6. ‘Contagion’ (Warner Bros.) – $8,565,000

7. ‘Drive’ (Film District) – $5,771,000

8. ‘The Help’ (Buena Vista) – $4,400,000

9. ‘Straw Dogs’ (Screen Gems) – $2,100,000

10. ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ (Weinstein) – $2,053,000


  1. Jane Morgan

    Luke, the only thing embarrassing this morning is your thesis.

    Movies don’t compete against each other. They compete against their own potential.

    Sony was hoping ‘Moneyball’ would open at $17M. It exceeded expectations.

    ‘The Lion King’ was forecasted at $17M, ‘The Dolphin Tale’ at $13M.

    ‘Killer Elite’ was supposed to make $8M.

    Four of the five big movies this weekend significantly over-performed.

    This morning in Hollywood, whores are dripping with champagne.

    • Of course movies compete against each other. Why do you think Disney has been promoting The Lion King as “The #1 Movie in America” since last week’s numbers came in? You don’t think Sony is upset that it can’t promote Moneyball as the #1 movie for the rest of this week?

      Marketing is about perception, and right now the perception is that Moneyball wasn’t appealing enough to audiences to beat a 17-year-old cartoon already in its second week of re-release and that’s even going to be reissued on video next week. That’s going to kill Moneyball’s momentum, and will affect how many people decide to go see it next weekend vs. how many decide to wait for video.

      • Jane Morgan

        No one went to see The Lion King instead of Moneyball.

        Sony is ecstatic. The movie over-performed. Word of mouth is glowing.

        The theatrical release has done its job. The Moneyball demographic is saturated with awareness. The next eight weeks of box office don’t matter, except for how it opens overseas. 80% of the film’s profit will come from blu-ray sales and TV licensing.

        As it only cost $50M to make, the profit on this investment will be sexy.

        • In this case, I must agree with Jane. These movies are just two completely different generas. I am sure no one is sitting around thinking to themselves “Gee, I really want to go see Moneyball, but Lion King is in 3D and is the number one movie in America, so I think I will go see that instead”. No, it is a question of “what can I take the kids to go see” versus “what can I go see with my friends”. The movies are NOT competing with each other.

          This is like saying that the Evening News competes with reruns of Two and A Half Men simply because they are on at the same time. If I have no intrest in the news, and like Two and a Half Men, I am not suddenly going to start watching the news if they replace the show with something else – I will simply not watch either.

          Its also like going to the movies, and being told that they don’t have Dr Pepper, but they have Mr Pibb. I am like, screw that, just give me water!

          To say that these two movies are competing is failing to understand audiences.

          NOW, lets go back to the news, and said I now have the option of watching NBC, CBS, ABC or FOX. THOSE are competing.

          Let’s go back to the theater, and say there is a great new animated movie out at the theaters geared toward families, and Lion King opens the same weekend. THOSE would be competing.

          Now, you could say something about Dolphin Tale, but as everytime I turn on the TV I see a commercial for Lion King, and haven’t seen a single television trailer for anything other than Abduction (The Help is too old to still have trailers on TV), you can probably mark weak numbers up to horrible marketing.

    • Yeah, there’s a reason why there was only one other big opening on July 15, 2011 (‘Winnie the Pooh’) because no one wanted to go up against ‘Harry Potter 7: Part 2.’ This happens quite often with gigantic releases. Why would other studios want to put movies with potential up against huge worldwide blockbusters on the same weekend? That’s silly business sense.

      • Jane Morgan

        If movies competed against each other, Transformers, Harry Potter, and Cowboys & Aliens would all have released the same weekend.

        Three companies, three products. Fighting for market share.

        That would be bad for everyone.

        Thus, Hollywood is a cartel.

        • EM

          If movies didn’t compete against each other, then I would never have to choose between them…yet sometimes I do.

          Reductio ad absurdum—quod erat demonstrandum.

          Or, if your Latin is rusty: FAIL!

          • Jane Morgan

            Your latin and your fancy fonts do not impress me, sir.

            Your infrequent indecision is proof of nothing.

            If Moneyball had competition this weekend it was golf and Gears Of War.

          • EM

            Choosing is not indecision. Your lack of comprehension of the difference between A and not-A doesn’t impress me.

          • Jane Morgan

            If you want to get philosophical, EM, let’s get philosophical.

            They say that olympic athletes don’t compete against each other. They only compete against their own potential.

            That’s a point-of-view I find useful. Especially in the arts.

            In what way does this philosophy conflict with your worldview?

          • EM

            The conflict is in that I model my worldview after reality.

            Olympic medals are not given on the basis of effort or improvement. They are given for the fastest, the longest, the most accurate, etc. in a ranking against other athletes or teams of athletes. This is competition. To whatever extent Olympic athletes are aiming to bring back medals, they are competing against each other. (Even if medals are not on their minds, they are still effectively competing against each other, regardless of intentions.)

            That said, there’s nothing stopping Olympic athletes from also competing against their own potential. I imagine many, if not all, do take that tack, which I consider a perfectly valid one.

            To put it philosophically—in symbolic-logic notation—this is a case of A&B, not a case of A&!B.

            (Sorry for the slow response; I’ve been busy.)

        • Got to disagree with you Jane. Movies are trying to convince a finite resource to come to them. That being people willing to shell out the money to see them.

          They aren’t competing against each other for bragging rights, so your example of big releases being released at the same time is moot. They’re competing for dollars, and since that’s a scarce resource, they space out their releases to try and maximize profits. They are going to pick the best release date for their movies, preferably up against movies that aren’t targeting the same demographics.

          I think we’re talking about two different types of competition. The example you gave would mean that studios are competing against each other in some type of never-ending contest. With a trophy at the end for the winner. The type of competing I’m talking about is there are groups of people that choose which movie they’re going to spend their precious money on. In that way movies are always competing against each other.

  2. Luke, I love this sentence: “Taylor Lautner’s showed how much star power he has this weekend – none – with the opening of his first leading feature film, ‘Abduction‘.”

    Imagine a movie starring Luke Hickman and Aaron Peck called “High Def Busters”. Would it make 11,2 million dollars? (of course it would! It’s the best idea ever! :)), but I’m just saying: 11,2 million dollars is still a lot of money for an alleged craptacular movie.

    • The ONLY reason it made that much is because all the nutjob Twilight Fans (IE crazy teenage girls) all went to see it, otherwise I bet you not many other demographics were there. To me it didnt look bad and I’ll watch it eventually but thats really only because it was filmed in Pittsburgh and I live here 🙂