Box Office Preview: Brad Pitt's 'Moneyball' Looks to Out-Run Taylor Lautner's 'Abduction'

Moneyball - Movie Still: Brad Pitt with Group - H - 2011
Sony Pictures

Alcon and Warner Bros.' family pic "Dolphin Tale" and Open Road Films' "Killer Elite" among this weekend's wide releases.

Brad Pitt headliner Moneyball is set to do battle with a crop of new films at the weekend box office — including Taylor Lautner’s first solo outing Abduction — but its most formidable obstacle in hitting a home run looks to be family pic Dolphin Tale.

Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros., the team behind Dolphin Tale, are hoping to strike the same feel-good, inspirational chord they did with box office hit The Blind Side (Alcon financed and produced both films, with Warner Bros. marketing and distributing).

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Tracking shows Sony’s baseball drama Moneyball in the lead heading into the weekend, with a projected opening gross in the high teens to low $20 million range.

Directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball stars Pitt as the real-life Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s who turned the franchise around despite the team’s bleak financial situation.

Moneyball, drawing strong reviews from critics, and particularly for Pitt’s performance, also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill. The movie, costing $50 million to produce, is based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 book of the same name and made its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

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Monebyall benefits from strong interest among males and older females; but Dolphin Tale also has strong awareness, and is tracking well with women and families.

Dolphin Tale, directed by Charles Martin Smith, is tracking to open in the high teens, although family films are notoriously hard to predict.

Based on a true story about a bottlenose dolphin rescued off the Florida Coast after her tail was injured, Dolphin Tale also stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

PHOTOS: 'Abduction' Red Carpet Premiere

Disney’s 3D re-release of The Lion King — topping last weekend’s box office chart with a stellar $30.2 million opening — could pose competition for Dolphin Tale, but most box office observers expect Lion King to fall 50 percent in its second outing.

Lionsgate’s Abduction is the clear choice among teen girls and younger women, but is only looking to open in the low teens. However, the film could easily over-perform if enough Twilight fans turn out to the see the star.

In the action-thriller, directed by John Singleton, Lautner plays a teenager who learns his parents aren’t who they say they are when he sees his picture on a missing children’s website. Abduction also stars Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello and Freema Agyeman.

Killer Elite, another action-thriller, also his theaters this weekend and is the first release from Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road Films, the independent acquisitions and distribution company backed by AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment.

Killer Elite is sparking plenty of interest among males, but will have to compete with Moneyball, so is tracking to open in the low teens. The film also stars Clive Owen and was directed by Gary McKendry.

Moneyball and Killer Elite aren’t the only titles playing at the recent Toronto Film Festival to bow this weekend at the domestic box office: Relativity Media opens Gerard Butler action biopic Machine Gun Preacher in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles before expanding into 15 additional markets on Sept. 30.

Relativity acquired U.S. distribution rights to Machine Gun Preacher from Lionsgate.

Several documentaries launch in limited runs, including Jamie Foxx’s Thunder Soul, which Roadside Attractions opens in 35 theaters; and The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby, which First Run launches in one theater.