Weekend Box Office: Will Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” Score a Home Run?

Brad Pittt’s Moneyball opens in theaters nationwide this weekend, facing competition from Taylor Lautner’s first solo project, the action flick Abduction, the action/thriller Killer Elite, and the family pic Dolphin Tale, probably the best contender to give Moneyball a run for its money.

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Dolphin Tale, produced by Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX), is supposed to strike the same feel-good, inspirational cord that did their box office hit The Blind Side back in 2009. Alcon financed and produced The Blind Side, as well as Dolphin Tale, while Warner Bros. was in charge of marketing and distributing for both films. The Blind Side grossed $256 million domestically, bringing in $34.1 million in its opening weekend.

Dolphin Tale is expecting a more modest weekend gross in the high teens, though family films are notoriously hard to predict. The film is based on the true story of a bottlenose dolphin rescued off the Florida Coast after her tail was injured, and stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, and Morgan Freeman. Of course, Dolphin Tale will face some competition in the family film category from Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) 3D re-release of The Lion King, which opened nationwide last weekend to $30.2 million.

However, it’s Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) Moneyball that is tracking best heading into the weekend, projected to take in an opening gross in the high teens to low $20 million range. Starring Brad Pitt and directed by Bennett Miller, the film follows the story of real-life Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team who turned the franchise around despite its bleak financial situation. The film has been drawing strong reviews from critics, especially for Pitt’s performance and that of his co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and Jonah Hill. The film cost $50 million to produce and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this month.

Lionsgate’s (NYSE:LGF) Abduction is tracking best among teen girls and younger women, the only film opening this weekend that particularly appeals to that demographic, thanks to its young star, Taylor Lautner of the Twilight franchise. The action-thriller, directed by John Singleton, has Lautner playing a teenager who learns that his parents aren’t who they say they are when he sees his picture on a missing children’s website. The film also stars Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello, and Doctor Who’s Freema Agyeman.

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Killer Elite, another action-thriller and Tom Ortenberg’s first release from Open Road Films, the independent acquisitions and distribution company backed by AMC Entertainment (AMCX) and Regal Entertainment (NYSE:RGC), is directed by Gary McKendry and stars Clive Owen, Jason Statham, and Robert De Niro.