“Moneyball” is a gorgeous grand slam of a movie that should hit all the right notes with Academy voters. Its opening weekend looks like a winner, but a small one, with maybe a $20 million gross by the end of Sunday. Sony has to stay the course with “Moneyball” for a lot of reasons: vindication after losing “The Social Network” last year, and the fact that what we call Big Sony–not Sony Pictures Classics–has been out of the Oscar business for eons otherwise. Last year when “Social Network” failed to win Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, Sony pretty much folded its tent and ceded the Oscar to “The King’s Speech.” But the trick is staying in the game and going the distance.
Brad Pitt is this year’s Sandra Bullock. He’s the Hollywood star who’s finally going to make it. Of course, it helps that “Moneyball” is 100 times better than “The Blind Side” or whatever that movie was called. “Moneyball” has potential for Best Picture for real, best screenplay with two great screenwriters (Zaillian and Sorkin), best director (Bennett Miller). Jonah Hill is very good, and could get pulled along by Pitt in some races as Best Supporting Actor. For Big Sony, “Moneyball” should be a repeat of their “Jerry Maguire” from 15 years ago–only this time, the star can win. (Tom Cruise had heavy competition in 1996 from winner Geoffrey Rush, Ralph Fiennes, Woody Harrelson, and Billy Bob Thornton.)
Right now, the chief obstacle to “Moneyball”‘s box office is getting women into the theater. The film has no love story. If there are women in it– Robin Wright– they are barely seen. If I were Sony, I’d do something pr wise with Kerris Dorsey, who plays Pitt’s young daughter like she’s the next Fanning. (She comes from the TV drama “Brothers and Sisters.”) Otherwise, the box office is going to be tough: we’ve got a great–I mean a great– movie starring the World’s Sexiest Man, and there’s no sex of any kind. Just lots of balls.