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Much of the book dealt with the number-crunching sabermetrics system Beane adopted. To bring out the drama, Sony hired Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar winner for his screenplay on “The Social Network,” to rework a script whose previous scribes included Steven Zaillian, an Oscar winner for “Schindler’s List.”

Bennett Miller, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind “Capote,” was brought in to direct. Pitt also is a producer on the film.

“It wasn’t the easiest code to crack. You had this really great book, but to translate it wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s head of distribution. “You really needed people who believed in it, like Brad, and writers who understood it, and a director to really make it something very visual and compelling for folks to see.”

“Dolphin Tale” managed a solid start despite unexpected competition for family audiences from “The Lion King.” Based on a true story, “Dolphin Tale” centers on a group of strangers who come together to save an injured dolphin.

“The Lion King,” “Moneyball” and “Dolphin Tale” managed a rare feat for typically quiet September, all finishing above $20 million for the weekend.

Hollywood’s overall revenues came in at $122 million, up 21 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” led with $19 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

“This is one of the strongest September weekends I’ve ever seen,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “‘Lion King’ got people in the mood to go back to movies, especially the family audience, and look at the combination of that one and `Dolphin Tale.’ It shows that family audiences are willing to go to the movies whether it’s summer or fall.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “The Lion King,” $22.1 million ($1.9 million international).

2. “Moneyball,” $20.6 million.

3. “Dolphin Tale,” $20.3 million.

4. “Abduction,” $11.2 million.

5. “Killer Elite,” $9.5 million.

6. “Contagion,” $8.6 million.

7. “Drive,” $5.8 million.

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