‘Lion King’ chases off Brad Pitt to remain No. 1

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Brad Pitt was unable to put the cat out of first place at the weekend box office.

Walt Disney’s “The Lion King” reissue was No. 1 for the second-straight weekend with $22.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That puts it just ahead of Pitt’s baseball drama “Moneyball,” a Sony Pictures release that opened at No. 2 with $20.6 million.

Debuting closely behind at No. 3 was the Warner Bros. family film “Dolphin Tale” with $20.3 million. “Dolphin Tale” stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

The 3-D reissue of 1994’s “The Lion King” has taken in $61.7 million since opening the previous weekend to a much bigger audience than expected. That’s on top of nearly $800 million worldwide the movie made in its original run and a 2002 re-release.

The film has done so well that Disney plans to leave it in theaters longer than the two-week run the studio initially planned as a prelude to its Blu-ray home-video debut Oct. 4, said Dave Hollis, Disney’s head of distribution.

The studio has not yet decided how long or how widely the film would play theatrically after the Blu-ray release, Hollis said.

“Consumers I think will be happy to consume it in multiple ways for this kind of franchise, as they have for the last 17 years,” Hollis said.

“The Lion King” held up well despite a rush of four new wide releases this weekend.

“Twilight” co-star Taylor Lautner’s action tale “Abduction” opened at No. 4 with $11.2 million. The Lionsgate release casts Lautner as a teen hurtled into a world of espionage as he tries to uncover the mystery of his past.

Another action thriller, Open Road Films’ “Killer Elite,” debuted at No. 5 with $9.5 million. The movie stars Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen as special-ops assassins caught up in a global revenge scheme.

“Moneyball” stars Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who shook up the baseball world when his tight budget forced him to look for new ways to scout players. Jonah Hill co-stars as an economist who helps turn the A’s into a contender using statistical methods that identify undervalued athletes.

With good reviews and Academy Awards buzz for Pitt and his “Moneyball” teammates, Sony hopes the film will stick around in theaters well into the fall.

It was a solid start for a film that looked dead in the water after Sony benched a previous version of “Moneyball” just days before shooting was to start in 2009.

That incarnation would have been made by Pitt’s pal Steven Soderbergh, who directed him in the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies. But Sony pulled the plug in a squabble with Soderbergh over the script.

Soderbergh departed, but Pitt stuck with it, determined to bring Michael Lewis’ best-seller “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” to the screen.

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