(EW.com) -- "The Lion King" finally gave up his box office throne, and now another animal reigns supreme!
After its solid $19.2 million debut last weekend, Warner Brothers' 3D family film "Dolphin Tale" jumped into first place this time around, dipping just 27 percent to $14.2 million. The film, which earned an "A+" CinemaScore grade, is playing very well to families, and it should continue to enjoy small drops (which is a shame if you're a pun-happy box office writer dying to use the word "dive!") in the weeks to come. After ten days, "Dolphin Tale," which cost $37 million to produce, has earned $37.5 million.
In second place was Brad Pitt's baseball drama "Moneyball," which held up nicely in its second weekend. Thanks to strong word-of-mouth, the film dropped by a slim 36 percent (against the start of the MLB playoffs) to $12.5 million, lifting its total to $38.5 million after two weekends. "Moneyball" is on track to finish in the same range as Disney's 2002 baseball hit, The Rookie, which earned $75.6 million.
Speaking of old Disney hits, there's another one in third place: "The Lion King 3D." The technologically enhanced re-release was only supposed to play in theaters for two weeks, but after performing so dominantly, Disney decided to extend its run -- even though "The Lion King" gets released on Blu-ray this Tuesday. Thus, it's not too surprising that "The Lion King 3D" was down a rather large 50 percent this weekend to $11.1 million -- many audiences believed it would no longer be in theaters, and we are now just days away from its home market release.
Still, Disney's not complaining -- the film has racked up $79.7 million during this release, lifting "The Lion King"'s lifetime domestic total (which also includes a 2002 IMAX run) to a roaring $408.2 million. That gross officially boosts "The Lion King" into the Top Ten on the all-time domestic box office chart, pushing "Spider-Man" (2002, $403.7 million) down to number 11. By this time next week, ninth place "Toy Story 3" ($415.3 million) could be knocked down a peg as well.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen's cancer dramedy "50/50" got off to an alright start in fourth place with $8.9 million this weekend. While that number certainly isn't huge, (Summit's President of domestic distribution, Richie Fay, told EW that Summit was hoping for an opening in the "low-teens") the studio should be pleased that it actually got $8.9 million worth of ticket buyers to go see a film about cancer -- those sorts of stories rarely get seen on the silver screen.
Also good for the studio is the fact that "50/50" cost just $8 million to make. If it can hold well in the upcoming weeks -- and judging by its "A-" CinemaScore grade, it should -- 50/50 might just become a profitable little venture. Interestingly, a whopping 22 percent of "50/50"'s audience was between the ages of 25 and 30 -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt's got that demographic on lockdown.
Though it debuted in fifth place, "Courageous" is the real success story of the weekend. Produced for a tiny $2 million by Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, "Courageous" earned a strong $8.8 million, outdoing the $6.8 million opening of Sherwood's 2008 picture "Fireproof," which became the highest-grossing independent film that year with $33.5 million total. Shown in 1,161 theaters (yet, notably, just one theater in Manhattan), "Courageous" earned the best per theater average of any wide release with a robust $7,580.
"Courageous" played primarily to older audiences (77 percent were above the age of 25), which was in accordance with distributor Sony's advertising campaign which targeted adults and parents within the 25-54 demographic. Sony also focused on church groups, faith leaders, men's groups, as well as fathering organizations, yet the audience was 53 percent female. According to Sony's exit polling, the film received an "A+" grade from audiences.
In sixth place was Daniel Craig's latest non-Bond misfire, "Dream House," which only mustered up $8.2 million over its opening weekend. The film, which also stars Craig's wife, Rachel Weisz, garnered a discouraging $3,085 per theater average from 2,661 locations, and given its utterly dreadful reviews and lukewarm "B" CinemaScore grade, "Dream House" will likely disappear from theaters quickly. Neither distributor Universal nor producer Morgan Creek could provide EW with a budget for the film.
The weekend's other newcomer, Fox's $20 million "What's Your Number?," opened in eighth place with a paltry $5.6 million. Released in 3,002 theaters, the Anna Faris comedy had a wider debut and lower gross than any of the other new releases, and as a result, its per theater average was an anemic $1,865. The film earned a "B" from CinemaScore audiences.
In limited release news, "Take Shelter," the creepy Michael Shannon/Jessica Chastain weather drama, earned a sunny $56,200 out of three theaters, while the oft-delayed Anna Paquin/Matt Damon picture "Margaret" struggled with only $7,500 from two locations. Also floundering was the unauthorized Sarah Palin documentary "Sarah Palin -- You Betcha!," which found a weak $7,400 in six theaters. It looks like the appeal of trying to take down Palin may be waning...
1. Dolphin Tale -- $14.2 mil
2. Moneyball -- $12.5 mil
3. The Lion King 3D -- $11.1 mil
4. 50/50 -- $8.9 mil
5. Courageous -- $8.8 mil
6. Dream House -- $8.2 mil
7. Abduction -- $5.7 mil
8. What's Your Number? -- $5.6 mil
9. Contagion -- $5.0 mil
10. Killer Elite -- $4.9 mil
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