“The Lion King” Reigns Again, Beats Brad Pitt

This lion’s roar is still plenty strong the second time around.

The 3D rerelease of “The Lion King” reigned again at the box office this weekend with $22.1 million in ticket sales – the second straight time that Simba, Timon and Pumbaa have been at the top in their extraordinary return to the big screen.

This weekend Disney’s 1994 animated classic triumphed over a debuting A-list movie with high buzz, the Brad Pitt hardball drama “Moneyball,” which was second with an estimated $20.6 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That’s the best opening ever for a baseball movie. “Moneyball,” based on Michael Lewis’ bestseller, tells how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane made his small-market squad a consistent contender by rethinking how baseball teams should be built. His approach is finding players who are highly effective (but don’t necessarily hit a lot of home runs), as reflected by stats such as on-base percentage.

“The Lion King” is certainly a smash for Disney, and a bang-for-your-buck one at that, as the studio rereleased the movie to promote the BluRay edition due on Oct. 4. Now, in what The Hollywood Reporter is calling “one of the biggest box office surprises in recent history,” it’s brought in $61.7 million in 10 days domestically, and $77.7 million worldwide.

That makes the film’s total box office gross $862.1 million -- #5 on the list of the top-grossing animated films of all time, and within striking distance of “Finding Nemo” ($867.9 million) and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” ($886.7 million). “The Lion King” is already the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film ever.

Right behind Sony’s “Moneyball” at No. 3 this weekend was the family-friendly “Dolphin Tale,” with an estimated $20.3 million. The movie from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. is about a bottle-nosed dolphin that is rescued and nursed back to health, robot fin and all, by a team led by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) and Dr. Ken McCarthy (Morgan Freeman). It features the real-life dolphin involved, named Winter.

Both movies were highly rated by CinemaScore audiences, with “Dolphin Tale” deemed an “A+” and “Moneyball” an “A.”

And with three movies above the $20 million mark, box office receipts were up 18 percent over the same weekend a year ago, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

Opening in No. 4 with $11.2 million was “Abduction,” starring Taylor Lautner, and in No. 5 was “Killer Elite” with $9.5 million.

“Contagion,” which was second just a week ago, is quickly fading from its peak of worldwide influence, as it dropped to sixth with $8.7 million.

Selected Reading: The Hollywood Reporter, EW

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