Nathan Gamble, Austin Stowell, Dolphin Tale
Dolphin Tale was the no. 3 movie at the North American box office on Friday, Sept. 23, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The 3D drama based on real-life events collected $5.11 million at 3,507 locations, and — as a movie appealing to the weekend matinee crowd — it may possibly end up ahead of Brad Pitt's Moneyball when final weekend figures are tallied.
Directed by Charles Martin Smith, the star of the 1983 nature drama Never Cry Wolf, Dolphin Tale has a solid 88 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. The cast includes Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Austin Stowell, Frances Sternhagen, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, and Morgan Freeman.
Taylor Lautner's first solo starring vehicle, Abduction, grossed $3.8 million at no. 4. Despite the horrible reviews — 0 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics — and the fact that Lautner is an as-yet unproven leading man, the John Singleton-directed thriller is expected to reach $11 million by Sunday evening — unless Friday turns out to have been the film's top day thanks to eager twihards who can't wait until November and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 to take a look at their idol.
On the other hand, if the $11 million estimate is correct, then that's more than what Nicolas Winding Refn's widely acclaimed Drive earned last weekend in spite of the presence of Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. And at Deadline.com, Nikki Finke claims that Lionsgate's Abduction marketing expenses were one-fourth the amount Warner Bros. spent on Dolphin Tale and Sony Pictures on Moneyball.
At no. 5, the action/thriller Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham and Robert De Niro, opened with $3.5 million and may reach $10m by Sunday evening. I'm willing to bet that Abduction will remain ahead of Killer Elite for the weekend; we'll find out if I'm right on Sunday morning, when weekend estimates are released.
Steven Soderbergh's Contagion took in $2.62 million at no. 6. The disease & hysteria drama stars Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Laurence Fishburne, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Contagion was followed by Drive with $1.88m. Despite the generally excellent reviews, chances are Drive won't be on the top-ten chart very much longer.
At no. 8, The Help pulled in $1.31m. Tate Taylor's comedy-drama featuring Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mary Steenburgen, and others, passed the $150m milestone on Thursday. Its current total is $151.35m.
Among the top ten, The Lion King 3D, boosted by 3D surcharges, posted the highest per-theater average, $2,577. I Don't Know How She Does It posted the lowest, $272, followed by Straw Dogs' $284. That means last weekend's newcomers will be gone rather rapidly.
Dolphin Tale image: Jon Farmer / Warner Bros.