The 3D version of The Lion King continued its reign at the top of the North American box office chart this weekend, out-grossing new releases Moneyball, Dolphin Tale, Abduction and Killer Elite.

The upgraded Disney hit took an estimated $22.1m from 2,330 theatres (for a per theatre average of $9,498), down only 27% from the animated family film’s debut take last weekend. The 3D version has now amassed $61.7m, illustrating the potential of retrofitting past hits for the 3D market.

Sony’s Moneyball led the pack of new releases, grossing an estimated $20.6m from 2,993 theatres (average - $6,883). It was a solid start for the well reviewed baseball themed drama starring Brad Pitt and directed by Bennett Miller, which had its world premiere at the Toronto festival and is expected to be a contender in awards season.

In third place, Warner Bros’ Dolphin Tale had a slightly stronger than expected debut, taking an estimated $20.3m from 3,507 (average - $5,777). The inspirational story about an injured dolphin, produced by Alcon Entertainment and starring Harry Connick Jr and Morgan Freeman, got mixed reviews but was successfully marketed to faith-based as well as family audiences.

Lionsgate’s Abduction got poor reviews but lived up to expectations with its $11.2m estimated take from 3,118 theatres (average - $3,592). The John Singleton-directed thriller is heartthrob Taylor Lautner’s first major film outside of the Twilight series.

Killer Elite, the first release from new distributor Open Road, fell a little short of predictions with an estimated $9.5m from 2,986 (average - $3,182). Robert de Niro, Jason Statham and Clive Owen star in the hitman thriller, which was financed by Australia’s Omnilab Media.

Among holdovers, FilmDistrict’s Drive was down a respectable 49% in its second week with an estimated $5.8m, Disney’s The Help slipped only 32% in its seventh week with $4.4m and Screen Gems’ Straw Dogs dropped 60% in its second week with $2.1m.

Next weekend’s wide releases are Summit Entertainment’s Seth Rogen/Joseph Gordon-Levitt comedic drama 50/50; TriStar’s faith-based police drama Courageous; Universal thriller Dream House, with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz; and Fox comedy What’s Your Number?, starring Anna Faris.

Estimated Top 10 North America Sept 23-25, 2011?Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date


1 (1) The Lion King (In 3D) (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $22.1m $61.7m

2 (-) Moneyball (Sony) SPRI $20.6m -

3 (-) Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros) WBPI $20.3m -

4 (-) Abduction (Lionsgate) Lionsgate $11.2m -

5 (-) Killer Elite (Open Road) Inferno $9.5m -

6 (2) Contagion (Warner Bros) WBPI $8.6m $57.1m

7 (3) Drive (FilmDistrict) Sierra/Affinity $5.8m $21.4m

8 (4) The Help (Disney/DreamWorks) WDSMPI $4.4m $154.4m

9 (5) Straw Dogs (Screen Gems) SPRI $2.1m $8.9m

10 (6) I Don’t Know How She Does It (TWC) TWC $2.1m $8m