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Brad Pitt/MONEYBALL, Morgan Freeman/DOLPHIN TALE Gross $1m Less Than Estimated: Box Office

The Dolphin, Dolphin Tale
Dolphin Tale

THE LION KING Surpasses STAR WARS, FANTASIA: Box Office (Inflation Adjusted)

Behind The Lion King 3D, Bennett Miller's baseball drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Robin Wright, collected $19.5 million at 2,993 North American locations this past weekend (Sept. 23-25) according to box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. That's $1.1 million less than Sony Pictures' estimates released yesterday.

With its $19.5 million, Moneyball would have ended up in third place for the weekend if it weren't for the fact that Warner Bros. also way overestimated the box office take of its 3D "family" movie Dolphin Tale. Directed by Charles Martin Smith, and featuring Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman, Austin Stowell, Frances Sternhagen, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, and Kris Kristofferson, Dolphin Tale took in $19.15 million at 3,507 locations. That's $1.05 million less than originally estimated.

In sum: contrary to the studios' Sunday estimates, neither Moneyball nor Dolphin Tale – despite the latter's 3D surcharges – managed to crack the $20 million mark.

One of the best reviewed releases of the year, Moneyball ultimately opened with a good – though hardly outstanding – figure for an "adult" movie. For comparison's sake: at about the same time last year, David Fincher's widely acclaimed The Social Network brought in $22.44 million at 2,771 sites on its debut weekend, while Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which was greeted by mixed reviews, collected $19.01 million at 3,565 sites.

It remains to be seen whether Moneyball will go the way of The Social Network (domestic $96.96m; worldwide $224.92m) or Money Never Sleeps (domestic: $52.47m; worldwide $134.74m). Domestically, solid reviews and awards-season buzz may place Moneyball closer to The Social Network; internationally, the picture is much fuzzier. Brad Pitt is a major plus, but baseball is a major minus.

Despite its Best Picture Oscar nod and the presence of Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams' overseas take was about one third of its domestic box office gross back in 1989. Despite the presence of Tom Hanks (and to a lesser extent Geena Davis and Madonna), A League of Their Own earned $24.9 million abroad vs. $107.53 million domestically in the early '90s. Featuring Dennis Quaid, The Rookie raked in $75.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, but a dismal $5 million abroad about nine years ago. And finally, Dennis Dugan's 2006 baseball flick The Benchwarmers went on to gross $59 million domestically but only $5.11 million internationally.

Moneyball was written by The Social Network's Aaron Sorkin and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Steven Zaillian, from a "story" by Stan Chervin based on Michael Lewis' book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. In addition to Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, and Jonah Hill, Moneyball also features Chris Pratt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Stephen Bishop. The likely Oscar contender's distributor is Columbia/Sony Pictures, the same company that brought you The Social Network.

As for Dolphin Tale, brought to you by some of the same people behind the sleeper blockbuster The Blind Side, it probably failed to perform as well as its "inspirational" predecessor – which, without 3D surcharges, opened with $34.11 million, in late 2009 – because it lacked Sandra Bullock or box office friendly facsimile. Morgan Freeman's anti-Tea Party remarks in all likelihood had nothing to do with Dolphin Tale's slightly below-par performance; Freeman made his remarks on Friday and the film was up 70 percent on Saturday and 8 percent (compared to Friday) on Sunday.

Dolphin Tale image: Jon Farmer / Warner Bros.

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