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Box office: Sony's 'Green Hornet' rolls to top spot during slow holiday weekend [Updated]

January 17, 2011 |  9:35 am

HORNET

Perhaps it was the cold weather on the East Coast that kept people inside. Maybe instead of going to the movies, folks were glued to the National Football League playoffs. Or another possibility is that few liked their options at the multiplex.

Whatever the reason, the first three-day weekend of 2011 looks like one that Hollywood will want to forget and probably won't help those Golden Globe hangovers. According to estimates from Hollywood.com, the box-office total for the weekend was off by more than 25% compared with a year earlier. Of course, last year, "Avatar" was still raking in the bucks.

Taking the top spot was Sony's "The Green Hornet," a 3-D version of the old radio classic starring Seth Rogen as the playboy turned crime fighter and Jay Chou as his sidekick Kato. "The Green Hornet" made $40 million, which is respectable but on the low side of industry estimates. Some projected the movie would make as much as S50 million in its first weekend.

"The Green Hornet" was not cheap to make. While Sony says the cost was around $110 million, other industry executives familiar with the production put the cost at $130 million. After months of less-than-stellar buzz, word of mouth within the industry started to turn around for the film in the last few weeks. Now Sony will have to hope that will translate into ticket sales in the weeks ahead.

[Update, 1:21 p.m.: "The Green Hornet" also opened in several European countries to mixed results. Ticket sales were good, but not great, in co-star Christoph Waltz's native Germany and in Great Britain at $4.5 million and $3.2 million, respectively. But in director Michel Gondry's native France, the movie opened to a soft $2.4 million. In total, "Green Hornet" took in $16.1 million from 35 foreign markets, but it has yet to open in many places, including East Asia, where Chou is very popular.]

Coming in second for the long weekend was Universal's comedy "The Dilemma" starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as best friends whose relationship is tested when Vaughn's character has to decide whether to tell James' character that his wife is cheating on him.

From director Ron Howard, "The Dilemma" took in $21.1 million, which was in line with projections but not an inspiring performance. If it had come in under $20 million, that would have been bad news for Universal Pictures. The film cost between $70 million to $75 million. The movie looks like it is trying to walk a fine line between slapstick humor and serious comedy. The challenge with that is luring both audiences who like over-the-top guffaws and those who like a little more intellectual heft to their jokes.

A trio of critical favorites rounded out the top-five. "True Grit" continued its surprising show of power, riding to an estimated $13.1 million. "The King's Speech" was crowned with an additional $11 million while "Black Swan" swam to $10.3 million.

[Update, 1:21 p.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic (U.S. and Canadian) box office, with foreign receipts when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com. Grosses are for four days, but percentage declines are on a three-day basis.

1. "The Green Hornet" (Sony): Opened to $40 million. $16.1 million overseas in 35 foreign markets.

2. "The Dilemma" (Universal/Spyglass): Opened to $21.1 million. $1.8 million overseas in four foreign markets.

3. "True Grit" (Paramaount/Skydance): $13.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 25%. Domestic total: $128.3 million.

4. "The King's Speech" (Weinstein Co.): $11.2 million on its eighth weekend, up 43%. Domestic total: $46.7 million.

5. "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek): $10.4 million on its seventh weekend, up 3%. Domestic total: $75.2 million.

6. "Little Fockers" (Universal/Paramount/Relativity): $8.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $135.5 million. $13.8 million overseas. International total: $133.1 million.

7. "Yogi Bear" (Warner Bros.): $7.4 million on its fifth weekend, down 20%. Domestic total: $84.2 million. $5.7 million overseas in 12 foreign markets. International total: $13.3 million.

8. "Tron: Legacy" (Disney): $6.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $158.1 million. $14.6 million overseas in 45 foreign markets. International total: $167.2 million.

9. "The Fighter" (Relativity/Paramount): $6.2 million on its sixth weekend, down 28%. Domestic total: $66.8 million.

10. "Tangled" (Disney): $5.5 million on its eighth weekend, down 23%. Domestic total: $182.5 million. $5.5 million overseas in 33 foreign markets. International total: $212.5 million.

-- Joe Flint and Ben Fritz

Photo: "The Green Hornet." Credit: Jaimie Trueblood / Columbia Pictures

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