Box Office: Brad Pitt vs. an injured ‘Dolphin’ as ‘Moneyball’ claims $6.8 million Friday

A crowded bunch of new releases hitting theaters Friday, but Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” came out on top Friday with $6.8 million.  The baseball drama earned excellent reviews and has some in the media talking Academy Award nomination for Pitt.  That may be a bit premature, but Sony Pictures will be more than happy if the Bennett Miller directed flick hits the higher range of an estimated $18-20 million for the weekend.

Two family films are right behind “Moneyball” making the weekend’s actual winner still very much up in the air. “The Lion King” found a surprising $6.1 million for no. 2 on Friday and an expected $20 million for the three-day.  That would give the 1994 classic another $60 million in this limited 3-D run. 

Alcon Entertainment’s “Dolphin Tale” grossed $5.1 million for third, somewhat lower than expected. The 3D film should have a stronger Saturday, but it’s hard to see it hitting the $20 million mark polling had indicated. But, “Dolphin” tale wasn’t the only film to open under expectations.

Taylor Lautner’s first film as a solo leading man, “Abduction,” had a weak Friday with just $3.8 million.  Unlike “Dolphin” or “Lion King,” however, “Abduction” may not play out with a bigger Saturday.  Teen girls flocked on opening day, but if the film is front loaded (as many suspect) it’s looking at only a $10-11 million debut.  Lionsgate claims it controlled marketing costs on the thriller, but at one point pre-release polling was showing a $20 million or so opening.  Like the studio’s last release, “Warrior,” it appears the company may have just chosen a too competitive release date for the thriller. 

“Killer Elite” rounded out the top five with a disappointing $3.5 million in 2,986 Regal and AMC Theaters.  Again, like “Abduction,” this weekend may have just been too competitive for the thriller to break through the clutter.

Look for final weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.