New films with demons and assassins enjoyed moderate debuts while Oscar contenders for Best Picture scored solid sales figures but the overall North American box office remained stuck in a funk. Another snowstorm affected theaters in the Northeast but a weekend with football made audiences more available.
Opening at number one with a respectable but not stellar debut was the supernatural thriller The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins which scared up an estimated $15M which was enough to lead the weak frame. The Warner Bros. release about an American sent to the Vatican to study with a priest that specializes in exorcisms averaged a decent $5,027 from 2,985 locations. Reviews for the PG-13 pic were poor. Given the lack of scary movies since Halloween and the past success of exorcism-related films, a larger opening could have been expected. Last summer’s no-star mockumentary The Last Exorcism debuted to $20.4M. The CinemaScore for Rite was a B and the film skewed older as 64% of the crowd was 25 and over.
Dropping a notch to second place, but holding up very well in its sophomore frame, was the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher comedy No Strings Attached with an estimated $13.7M. Declining by only 31%, the Paramount release raised its ten-day tally to a solid $39.7M and could see a final gross of $70-80M. Unlike many other recent star-driven comedies, Strings was not too expensive to produce thanks to a $25M budget and will turn into a nice moneymaker for its backers. A lack of football this weekend certainly helped the female-skewing pic broaden its audience to include more young men.
Two action films claimed third place with each reporting an estimated Friday-to-Sunday take of $11.5M. Sony’s The Green Hornet fell only 35% and enjoyed a good hold pushing its 17-day total to $78.8M on its way to a little past the $100M mark.
Jason Statham’s latest action vehicle The Mechanic opened with an estimated $11.5M as well and reached the higher end of the range the actor has seen lately when anchoring a film. The R-rated remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film averaged a decent $4,255 from 2,703 theaters for CBS Films. It was the second widest debut ever for a Statham-anchored action film behind only the 3,303 playdates for Transporter 2. Mechanic‘s debut came as good news to the action star who has stumbled in recent years with Crank: High Voltage and The Bank Job which debuted with $7M and $5.9M, respectively, but bounced back last summer as one of the main ingredients in Sylvester Stallone’s action hit The Expendables.
To no surprise, Mechanic played best to the guys. The audience was 61% male and 64% over the age of 25. The CinemaScore was only a B- but the Friday-to-Saturday increase of 30% was more than twice the 14% of the frame’s other new release The Rite. CBS Films paid only $5M for North American rights plus P&A.
Final grosses to be released on Monday will determine the true third place film. Sony projected a 38% Saturday-to-Sunday decline for Hornet while Mechanic‘s Sunday was estimated to fall by only 31%. Most films in the top ten were projecting in the 35-40% range
Best Picture contender The King’s Speech, which led all films with a dozen Academy Award nominations last week, saw its ticket sales surge thanks to the extra media attention and 877 additional screens. The Weinstein Co. release took in an estimated $11.1M, up a solid 41%, from 2,557 theaters after an expansion from 1,680 sites. Its average of $4,342 was only slightly down from last weekend’s $4,676. The Colin Firth-Geoffrey Rush drama has banked a strong $72.2M and is now headed past the $100M mark. Fueling its Oscar momentum, Speech director Tom Hooper won the top prize on Saturday from the Directors Guild of America boosting his odds significantly for winning the comparable award at the Oscars. Until this weekend, The Social Network‘s David Fincher had been seen as the front-runner.
Rival Best Picture foe True Grit enjoyed a bump at the box office too inching up 4% to an estimated $7.6M. But unlike Speech, Grit actually lost theaters. Paramount’s hit Western now stands at $148.4M and is on course to reach more than $175M which is incredible for the genre and for the Coen brothers. The Dilemma suffered the worst decline in the top ten sliding 40% to an estimated $5.5M upping the cume to a lackluster $40.6M for Universal.
Another pair of contenders for the top Oscar followed, each displaying potent legs. Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan dropped 13% to an estimated $5.1M and was followed by Paramount’s The Fighter which took in an estimated $4.1M for a scant 3% dip. Both films have been in wide release since December 17 and shed some screens this round. Totals stand at $90.7M and $78.4M, respectively. Still on the road to nine-digit territory, the leggy kidpic Yogi Bear rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.2M, off 17%, for a $92.5M total.
Fox Searchlight re-expanded its other Best Picture contender 127 Hours going from 69 to 916 locations and collected an estimated $2.1M this weekend bumping the cume to $13.4M.
The Mexican-American comedy From Prada to Nada saw a soft debut in limited release opening to an estimated $1.1M from 256 theaters. Lionsgate’s pic about privileged Beverly Hills sisters forced to move to a tough Latino neighborhood in East Los Angeles averaged a mild $4,297. The Spanish-language drama Biutiful, featuring an Oscar-nominated performance by Javier Bardem, fared well in its limited bow grossing an estimated $461,000 from 57 sites for a solid $8,088 average. Including previous grosses from its Oscar-qualifying run in late December, the Roadside Attractions title has taken in $623,000 to date. Snubbed during the early part of awards season, the serious drama about a dying father has now entered the spotlight thanks to nods for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $88.2M which was down 15% from last year when Avatar stayed in the top spot with $31.3M; and off 8% from 2009 when Taken opened at number one with a surprisingly strong $24.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!