BOX OFFICE: ‘Lion King (3-D)’ holds off ‘Moneyball’ to retain weekend crown


"The Lion King" is hoisted back to the box-office throne. (REUTERS/ Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)

Just like the major-league team it’s based on, “Moneyball” gave the bigger player a run for its money — but couldn’t quite capture a crown.

“The Lion King (3-D)” repeated as champ at the weekend’s domestic box office, grossing $22.1-million, according to studio estimates as reported Sunday by Variety. (Final numbers are due Monday.)

Sony’s “Moneyball,” based on Michael Lewis’s acclaimed 2003 book, is about the upstart 2002 Oakland Athletics competing against bigger-salaried ballclubs, including the league’s budget royalty from the Bronx Zoo: the mighty Yankees. The film — which has garnered positive reviews and praise for Brad Pitt’s starring role as A’s sabermetric-happy exec Billy Beane — finished second in its debut, grossing $20.6-million.

Another true-to-life tale, Warner Bros.’s “Dolphin Tale,” was third in its debut ($20.3-million).

The release of 1995’s “Lion King” in 3-D has exceeded expectations, grossing nearly $62-million in two weeks; seven days earlier, it won the first weekend of its re-release by grossing $29.3-million to double studio predictions. Disney’s “Lion King (3-D)” also became the first re-release to win a box-office weekend since “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi” in 1997.

Released in 1994, the original “Lion King” won audiences and two Oscars. That year represented a last roar, of sorts: The next year, Disney/Pixar unwrapped its first CGI feature film, “Toy Story,” ushering in the dominance of digital animation over hand-drawn features.

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Of the top-30 animated feature films all-time at the domestic box office, only two — the Hamlet-infused “Lion King” (No.-3) and “The Simpsons Movie” (No.-27) — are hand-drawn. Pixar films and DreamWorks Animation’s ”Shrek” franchise dominate the top of that list.

“The Lion King’s” lifetime domestic gross is now more than $390-million — putting it within striking distance of second-place Last year’s “Toy Story 3” ($415-million). “Shrek 2” is the lifetime champ at $441-million.

“There is a ‘circle of life’ thing happening” with “The Lion King,” Disney distribution exec Dave Hollis told the AP last week. “You have children of the ‘90s who are now parents of the 2010s and they themselves are taking their kids to share what was, for them, a great experience two decades ago.”

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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