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Box Office: 'Dolphin Tale,' two other holdovers beat four new films [Updated]

October 2, 2011 |  9:26 am

Dolphin Tale was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Four new movies debuted at the box office this weekend, but it was "Dolphin Tale" that swam to the front of the pack.

The 3-D family film, which has been in theaters for two weeks, was one of three holdovers to maintain strong ticket sales this weekend. "Dolphin Tale" took the No. 1 spot with $14.2 million, raising its domestic total to $37.5 million, according to distributor Warner Bros. It was followed by the baseball drama "Moneyball," which raked in $12.5 million and now has grossed $38.5 million. A 3-D version of 1994's "The Lion King," which took the top spot at the box office for the last two weekends, came in third with $11.1 million. The animated re-release has now collected $79.7 million.

Of the films that opened in theaters this weekend, the Christian drama "Courageous" got off to the strongest start. The ultra-low-budget film played in at least 1,000 fewer theaters than any of the other new releases but still sold $8.8 million worth of tickets. "50/50," a comedy about cancer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, made a decent $8.9 million, while the far more costly supernatural thriller "Dream House" brought in a disappointing $8.2 million. The Anna Faris romantic comedy "What's Your Number?" flopped with a paltry $5.6 million.

"Courageous," made by sibling minister-filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, had a budget of only $2 million. The movie, about four police officers who look to religion when affected by a tragedy, had a budget of only $2 million. The film was produced by Affirm Films, the Sony division that acquires works with religious themes.

Audiences who saw the movie loved it, giving it an average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. "Courageous" is only the fourth movie this year to earn a perfect grade, joining "The Help" and two other movies that resonated faith-based audiences, "Soul Surfer" and "Dolphin Tale." It was an older crowd that went to see "Courageous" this weekend, with 77% of the audience over 25.

The movie got off to an even better start than "Fireproof," the Kendricks' 2008 film featuring "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron as a firefighter struggling to keep his marriage together. That movie, also inexpensive to produce, opened to $6.8 million and ultimately collected $33.5 million worldwide.

"50/50" was produced by Summit Entertainment and Mandate Pictures for about $8 million, so its financial backers may ultimately end up in OK shape. Still, the movie came in on the lower end of industry expectations, as pre-release audience surveys had indicated the film would start off with about $12 million.

The film, about a 25-year-old who relies on his best friend when diagnosed with cancer, could make up some ground in the coming weeks if it benefits from strong word of mouth. Indeed, those who saw the well-reviewed movie this weekend liked it a lot, giving it an average grade of A-. Summit had been hoping that young males who are fans of Rogen would buy tickets to the picture, but the audience skewed slightly more female and 65% of the crowd was over the age of 25.

"Dream House" stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a couple who move into a haunted home. The film, distributed by Universal Pictures, was not inexpensive to produce: It was financed by Morgan Creek Production for about $50 million.

Though the movie features respected actors and was directed by six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan, the picture was not screened for critics before its release. That's a sign that a studio is nervous about how a movie will be received -- rightly so in this case. As of Sunday morning, the film had earned the worst reviews of any of the weekend's new debuts with a dismal 5% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn't hate it as much as critics, though, assigning the film an average grade of B.

"What's Your Number?" is being distributed by 20th Century Fox but was produced by New Regency Pictures for about $20 million. The film, about a single woman who frets over the number of men she has slept with, was seen mostly by older women this weekend. -- 63% of the crowd was female and over the age of 25. Audiences gave the movie a grade of B.

Faris' latest movie opening falls far behind that of her 2008 comedy "The House Bunny." That movie, in which the actress played a ditzy sorority house leader, opened to $14.5 million and ultimately collected $70.4 million worldwide.

[Updated at 12:05 p.m. Oct. 2: "Sarah Palin: You Betcha!" -- the second documentary to be released this year about the divisive politician -- tanked at the box office this weekend. Freestyle Releasing opened the picture in six theaters, where the movie ultimately grossed $7,374 for a paltry per-theater average of $1,229. In July, a documentary critics said was more sympathetic to Palin called "The Undefeated" collected far more ticket sales on its first weekend of release. That picture debuted with $65,132 from 10 theaters, but ended up with only $116,381 at the end of its theatrical run.

Here are the top 10 current movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and

1. "Dolphin Tale" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $14.2 million on its second weekend, down 26%. Domestic total: $37.5 million.

2. "Moneyball" (Sony): $12.5 million on its second weekend, down 36%. Domestic total: $38.5 million.

3. "The Lion King 3-D" (Disney): $11.1 million on its third weekend, down 50%. $1.8 million overseas in 22 foreign markets. Domestic total: $79.7 million. International total: $19 million.

4. "50/50" (Summit/Mandate): Opened to $8.9 million.

5. "Courageous" (Sony): Opened to $8.8 million.

6. "Dream House" (Universal/Morgan Creek): Opened to $8.2 million.

7. "Abduction" (Lionsgate): $5.7 million on its second weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $19.1 million.

8. "What's Your Number?" (Fox/New Regency): Opened to $5.6 million. Opened to $2.2 million overseas in 12 foreign markets.

9. "Contagion" (Warner Bros./Participant): $5 million on its fourth weekend, down 40%. $900,000 overseas in 16 foreign markets. Domestic total: $64.7 million. International total: $7.2 million.

10. "Killer Elite" (Open Road/Omnilab): $4.9 million on its second weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $17.4 million.]


Hollywood shines a light on the spiritual

Daniel Craig film "Dream House" seeks to avoid critics

Movie Projector: Holdovers likely to beat "50/50," "Dream House"

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Nathan Gamble, left, and Harry Connick Jr. star in "Dolphin Tale." Credit: Warner Bros.