Box Office Preview: 'Lion King,' 'Moneyball,' 'Dolphin Tale' in Close Race

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New entries "50/50," "What's Your Number," "Dream House" and "Courageous" may get dwarfed.

Four new films enter the market this weekend—led by the critically acclaimed cancer dramedy 50/50—but they will probably be no match for holdovers The Lion King, Dolphin Tale and Moneyball.

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In particular, no one is counting out the 3D re-release of Lion King, considering the pic has pulled off a surprise upset two weekends in a row, and has now grossed $66.4 million in North America. Moneyball and Dolphin Tale, both debuting last weekend, have grossed $24.2 million and $21.6 million, respectively, through Wednesday.

Lion King is keeping its same theater count this weekend (2,330 locations) on the eve of the Oct. 4 release of the Diamond Blu-Ray edition of the film.

Box office observers believe Lion King, Dolphin Tale and Moneyball will gross somewhere in the $13 million-$15 million range, although Summit Entertainment is bullish that the well-reviewed 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, has a shot at over-performing and earning a top spot on the box office chart.

Will Reiser penned the script for 50/50, which is loosely based on his own experience with cancer. Jonathan Levine directed, while Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston also star.

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Fox and New Regency launch Anna Faris and Chris Evans R-rated comedy What’s Your Number? in theaters this weekend, but the movie, directed by Mike Mylod, is expected to do only modest business and open in the $7 million-$8 million range.

Morgan Creek’s horror-thriller pic Dream House, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts, is projected to land in the same range in its debut.

Universal is distributing Dream House, which is expected to gross in the $7 million-$9 million range. The film was beset with controversy over conflicts between Morgan Creek and director Jim Sheridan, and wasn’t screened for critics.

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The weekend’s fourth new film is the faith-based Courageous, from Sherwood Pictures and Sony’s Tri-Star Pictures. The movie, directed by Alex Kendrick, is about four police officers struggling with their faith; Kendrick co-wrote the script with his brother Stephen Kendrick and also stars.

Courageous is expected to open in the $5 million-$6 million range, although Sherwood is optimistic that the film will do more based on $2 million in advance sales. The film is the fourth release from the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., after Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Flywheel.

Fireproof was considered a solid performer, cuming $33.4 million at the domestic box office.

Notable specialty releases opening this weekend include Jeff Nichols’ critically acclaimed Take Shelter, starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Sony Pictures Classics is launching the pic in three theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Fox Searchlight opens Kenneth Lonergan’s long-delayed Margaret in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and Freestyle Releasing opens Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill’s satirical documentary Sarah Palin: You Betcha! in six theaters in the two cities.



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