Baseball pic opens well, but can't top Disney pic

While “Moneyball” begins Sony’s fall charge of adult-skewing pics, a pair of family pics, Disney’s “The Lion King” and WB’s “Dolphin Tale,” proved to be heavy hitters as well.

The Brad Pitt starrer debuted Stateside over the Sept. 23-25 weekend with $19.5 million, just enough to beat Warner Bros.’ modestly budgeted “Dolphin Tale” (costing in the mid-$30 million range), which landed in third place with $19.2 million.

Neither new entry earned enough to top Disney’s steady 3D reissue “The Lion King,” which grossed $21.9 million, for a minimal soph-sesh drop of 27%.

For “Moneyball,” Sony used the same plan that it had for “The Social Network” last fall, when that film opened to $22 million and went on to cume $97 million domestically. The studio says “Moneyball” could also gross around four times its opening; the pic’s biggest problem will arise with international auds, most of whom (except in Japan and South Korea) aren’t baseball fans.

In an attempt to lower the pic’s overseas hurdle, Sony used a global marketing strategy that focused on Pitt, and less on baseball. The pic’s early one-sheet, for instance, depicted a nearly unrecognizable Pitt standing on a baseball field, which was later changed to feature a close-up of the actor.

“Moneyball” will face tough competish on the adult front, which includes Sony’s own George Clooney-helmed “The Ides of March” bowing Oct. 7.

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