Dolphin Tale Tops Shallow Box Office Weekend

Hollywood saw another handful of new films fail to make waves at the box office as Dolphin Tale swam into the top spot this past weekend in its second weekend of release.

Warner’s family flick Dolphin Tale managed to beat last weekend’s champ, The Lion King. The two-week old film, along with Sony’s Moneyball, both sustained decent holds from the previous week and easily beat out newcomers 50/50, Courageous, Dream House and What’s Your Number?, a quartet that had openings that ranged from surprising to outright bad. With no new movies to draw people out en masse to the local multiplexes, the top ten was down roughly 18% from last weekend’s top ten but up 2.8% from last year at this time.

Dipping a mere 25% from its debut, Warner’s Dolphin Tale moved up one spot to first place as it rescued an estimated $14.3 million from 3,515 theaters to bring its ten-day total to a respectable $38 million thus far. The wide release, 3D ticket surcharges and positive word-of-mouth from families that attended last weekend helped keep the movie afloat. If the film continues to benefit from positive feedback, it could see a final domestic take of $70 million.

Another film that held up well thanks to viewer word-of-mouth, a Sports Illustrated cover story and the start of the MLB Playoffs was Sony’s Moneyball. The Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill baseball film eased a respectable 37% in sales to bring in $12.2 million from 2,993 theaters. The new total cume for the movie stands at $38.2 million and could be heading towards a $60-65 million final tally.

After two surprisingly strong weekends at number one, Disney’s 3D reissue of The Lion King eased back into third place as the film gets ready to rule home video yet again starting this Tuesday. The 1994 classic kept all of its original screens (and added ten more for good measure) but dropped by 49% to an estimated $11 million from 2,340 theaters. After seventeen days, the film has a new haul of $79.6 million. If Disney keeps the movie in some theaters for the next few weeks, it may be able to push its final reissue tally close to the $85 million mark.

The first of the quartet of newcomers, Summit’s cancer comedy/drama 50/50 received strong critical notices and an encouraging “A-” from ticket buyers via Cinemascore. However, it couldn’t translate those positives into a particularly strong opening weekend (I blame it solely on the subject matter, not the film itself). Debuting on 2,458 screens, 50/50 earned $8.8 million it is first three days. Budgeted at a mere $8 million, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen film may benefit from viewer word-of-mouth and turn into a sleeper hit over the next few weeks.

In fifth place was TriStar’s Courageous which had a potent $8.8 million bow in 1,161 theaters. Its $7,580 per screen average was the best in the top ten, the result of selling the faith-based drama to church groups in advance of its opening weekend. The Christian drama was written, directed and stars Alex Kendrick, who also directed another popular faith-based drama, Fireproof. The critics listed on Rotten Tomatoes weren’t particularly thrilled by the $2 million production (41% approval rating), but that didn’t stop the movie from scoring strongly in the markets it was released in.

Sixth place went to Universal’s troubled supernatural thriller Dream House, which was dead on arrival with a meek $8.2 million from 2,661 theaters. Directed by Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot) and starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz, Dream House was the victim of a torturous post-production that forced the movie to be delayed from its February 2011 release date to now. After losing a battle over final cut on the film, Sheridan distanced himself from the movie. Craig, Watts and Weisz followed suit and so did critics (a whopping 5% approval on RT) and audiences.

After being a non-starter last weekend, Lionsgate’s Taylor Lautner vehicle Abduction kidnapped 49% less viewers in its second round. For the weekend, the action dud earned $5.6 million from 3,115 screens to bring its ten-day total to a meek $19.1 million. The film should finish its run with a limp $25-30 million final gross.

In eighth place was the last opener this weekend, the Anna Faris romantic comedy What’s Your Number? with a poor $5.2 million from 3,002 screens. The film, which co-starred Chris Evans, tried to sell the movie on the strength of the Scary Movie series that Farris has been a regular in. That, kids, is what we like to call a sign of desperation on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox, the film’s distributor. Watch for Number to become unlisted at the box office in a matter of days.

Warner’s hit thriller Contagion was in ninth place with $5 million in its fourth weekend. After one month in theaters, the film has earned a respectable $64.7 million. The Steven Soderbergh feature should finish with approximately $75 million in domestic sales.

Rounding out the top ten was the other action dud from last weekend, Open Roads’ Killer Elite. The Jason Statham feature fell by 48% to $4.8 million from 2,986 theaters and a weak ten-day total of $17.5 million. The $70 million production should finish between $27-30 million in domestic sales.

Next weekend, the George Clooney-directed The Ides of March and the Hugh Jackman Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots flick Real Steel will aim to topple Dolphin Tale from its perch. For the first time in several weeks, a new release movie should come out on top.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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