"Dolphin Tale" jumps to top of movie box office

Sun Oct 2, 2011 3:32pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Simba the lion may rule the jungle, but he couldn't beat a plucky dolphin at the weekend box office.

Family film "Dolphin Tale" made a surprising leap to first place with a projected $14.2 million in domestic ticket sales over three days, studio estimates released on Sunday showed.

The movie about an injured dolphin rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail, which finished third last week, knocked "The Lion King 3D" from the box office throne it held the past two weekends. "Lion King" dropped to third with $11.1 million.

In between the animal-themed family films was "Moneyball," a baseball drama starring Brad Pitt as a general manager who fields a small-budget team of unlikely contenders. The film finished in second place with $12.5 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters.

All three holdover films outranked four newcomers, showing the appeal in recent weeks of feel-good movies over heavier-themed films.

The fall movie season, typically a time for more serious films, has "seen a shift to the more upbeat and even inspirational films and family fare," said Paul Dergarabedian, who heads up Hollywood.com Box Office.

"Dolphin Tale" has gained on strong word-of-mouth buzz after rave reviews from critics and moviegoers, said Andrew Kosove, co-CEO of Alcon Entertainment, the studio that produced the film. The movie is one of just a few this year to earn an A+ rating from audiences polled by survey firm CinemaScore.

"The Lion King" also has drawn filmgoers with a triumphant story despite being a 17-year-old film. The Walt Disney Co animated classic has rung up $79.7 million domestically and $19 million in international markets since it returned to theaters last month.   Continued...