By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Lion King" fended off Brad Pitt to keep the box-office crown for a second straight weekend.
Walt Disney Co's 3D re-release of the animated classic rang up an estimated $22.1 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over three days as families turned out to see lion cub Simba's return to theaters.
Baseball drama "Moneyball" starring Pitt took second and family film "Dolphin Tale" finished a close third, according to studio projections released on Sunday.
Ticket sales for "The Lion King 3D" have far surpassed industry expectations for a movie that debuted in 1994 and will soon hit stores on Blu-ray disc. The film has grossed $61.7 million in North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters since its release last weekend, plus $16 million in international markets, where it came out more than a month ago.
Combined, the "Lion King" re-release has brought in $77.7 million around the world. Disney will extend the planned two-week run in theaters, said Dave Hollis, executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution at Disney.
"We are working to meet that demand," Hollis said.
Baseball and math didn't quite add up to a box-office win for "Moneyball," which finished in second place with $20.6 million domestically. Pitt plays real-life Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who used unconventional statistical analysis to field a small-budget team of overlooked players to make an unlikely playoff run.
The movie won positive reviews from critics and received an A rating from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
The film was based on a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis and cost about $50 million to produce. Sales hit the high end of studio projections, said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Columbia Pictures, which released the film.
Close behind was another story from the animal kingdom. "Dolphin Tale" brought in an estimated $20.3 million to take third place, a strong showing for a family film against the mighty performance from "Lion King."
The movie, starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, is based on the true story of a dolphin that loses its tail in a crab trap and is rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail. The real dolphin that inspired the story portrays the dolphin in the film.
The movie won a rare A+ rating from audiences polled by CinemaScore. It was produced by Alcon Entertainment for about $37 million.
Action film "Abduction," starring and produced by "Twilight" heartthrob Taylor Lautner in his first major role outside the popular vampire and werewolf series, pulled in $11.2 million to take fourth place.
In "Abduction," Lautner plays a teenager on the run after he discovers his parents aren't who he thought they were and his life has been a lie. He pieces together the truth while being pursued by the FBI and killer assassins. The film cost Lions Gate Entertainment about $35 million to make.
Spy thriller "Killer Elite," starring Robert de Niro, Clive Owen and Jason Stratham, finished in fifth place with $9.5 million. The film is the first movie released by Open Road Films, a joint venture between theater owners Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc.
Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp, released "Moneyball." "Dolphin Tale" was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. Lions Gate Entertainment distributed "Abduction."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine)