Finally some good box-office news during this desultory September. Four of the best movies of the year (so far) were released (or will be released) this month, and after the first two (Warrior and Drive) disappointed, leave it to Brad Pitt to open the third, Moneyball, with $20 million (the final one, 50/50, opens next weekend). That $20 million may not sound all that impressive, but it was good for the 23rd biggest September opening of all time and, more impressively, it’s the highest-grossing baseball opening weekend of all time, finally knocking the embarrassingly awful The Benchwarmers from that perch.
Here are the 10 best openings ever for a baseball movie.
1. Moneyball: $20 million
2. Benchwarmers: $19.6 million
3. The Rookie: $16 million
4. A League of their Own: $13.7 million
5. For the Love of the Game: $13 million
6. Fever Pitch: $12.4 million
7. Bad News Bears: $11.3 million
8. Hardball: $9.3 million
9. Rooke of the Year: $9 million
10. Angels in the Outfield: $8.9 million
Note that you don’t see two of the best three of all time (I’d add Moneyball among them) in the top 10: Bull Durham opened with $5 million (and made $50 million overall) and Field of Dreams had a $5.4 million opening weekend (and a final tally of $64 million). Only one baseball movie has ever broken $100 million, and that was A League of their Own with $107 million.
Another surprise this weekend was the showing of A Dolphin Tale, which opened half a million less than Moneyball at number three. That’s actually a record, too, for live-action family movies involving animals, besting Eight Below by a $100,000. Not exactly a high bar.
The weekend’s winner, however, was a holdover 17 years in the making. The Lion King, for the second weekend in a row, held the top spot, racking up an additional $22 million to bring its re-release total to $61 million. It’s my understanding that it was only a two-week engagement but that might be extended after another strong showing this weekend.
There were two other openers, both of which debuted softly. Embarrassingly, Taylor Llamautner’s Abduction beat out Jason Statham’s Killer Elite, $11 million to $9 million respectively. That’s right: Llamautner defeated Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro, although — as I read somewhere else — it’s hard to get too excited about a Statham film when one is released every other month. I’m not sure if we can completely rule out Llamautner’s post-Twilight career, but the showing of Abduction — given just how much was spent on marketing — certainly doesn’t bode well for the actor. It is yet another disappointment for the Twilight trifecata: The biggest opener from Lautner, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson so far is the $16 million for Water for Elephants, which had more to do with the popularity of the source material and Reese Witherspoon than it did Pattinson.
Another holdover — the month’s 5th best movie, Contagion — continued to perform well, adding another $8 million to bring its total to $57 million. The month’s best movie, Drive, continued to under-perform, however. It’s made only $21 million after 10 days, but the $15 million film is already profitable. I finally got around to watching another of Nicolas Winding Refn’s films this weekend, Valhalla Rising, and it was exactly as TK described it in his review: Brutal but boring.
Oh, and for the curious, the month’s worst film, Bucky Larson, has fallen out of the top 40 after only two weeks, ending its run at $2.2 million. And not to belabor the point, but there were enough defenders of Nick Swardson to provoke me to watch one of his stand-up specials this weekend just to see if there’s something I was missing. I am not. I didn’t think it was possible to be a poor man’s Dane Cook, but that’s exactly what Swardson is. It’s self-indulgent douchebag humor, the type where you can predict the punchline before he’s even finished the set up. His set reminded me a lot of a joke he told about Taco Bell: Mediocre cat-shit, unless you’re completely drunk.
Finally, I leave you with this, compliments of superasente.