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September 26, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Oh, ye of little faith, cast thine eyes unto the King who hath risen again. Words to that effect may have been ringing in the ears of miscalculating industry seers and studio executives once again this weekend as The Lion King reigned as the king of the box office for the second weekend in a row with an estimated $22.1 million, down just 24 percent from last weekend. As recently as last Friday, a Disney exec was telling Daily Variety that he feared that the movie had been too “frontloaded,” meaning that most people who had wanted to see the re-release in 3D had already seen it the previous weekend. Most box-office forecasters had predicted that the winner this time around would be the Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball, which received an enthusiastic reception from critics on Friday. And indeed, in the early innings on Friday, it scored the most ticket sales. But families, eager to see The Lion King in 3D during its limited two-week run in theaters before being released on home video next week, made Lion King a come-from-behind winner. As it turned out, the pundits were not really off-base when it came to Sony’s Moneyball, which performed just the way they had predicted it would in terms of ticket sales, opening with around $20.6 million. That was only a tad ahead of Warner Bros.’ Dolphin Tale, which debuted with about $20.3 million. It’s rare for three movies to earn more than $20 million on a September weekend, and this weekend jumped 21 percent ahead of the same weekend last year, when no film earned $20 million. [Update: Final figures for most films came in slightly below estimates. Only Lion King wound up with more than $20 million. See below.] Two other newcomers also performed about as expected. Unfortunately the expectations weren’t high. Abduction, starring Twilight’s Taylor Lautner, opened in fourth place with $11.2 million, and Open Road Films’s Killer Elite placed fifth with $9.5 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:

1. The Lion King, $22.1 million; 2. Moneyball, $20.6 million; 3. Dolphin Tale, $20.3 million; 4. Abduction, $11.2 million; 5. Killer Elite, $9.5 million; 6. Contagion, $8.6 million; 7. Drive, $5.8 million; 8. The Help, $4.4 million; 9. Straw Dogs, $2.1 million; 10. I Don’t Know How She Does It, $2.05 million.

Final Figures for the Top Five Films:

1. The Lion King, $21,929,332
2. Moneyball, $19,501,302
3. Dolphin Tale, $19,152,401
4. Abduction, $10,925,253
5. Killer Elite $9,300,000 (Note: Open Road did not provide an exact figure)