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Box Office: 'The Rite' on top as several Oscar movies get bump from nominations [Updated]

January 30, 2011 |  9:56 am

Rite The Anthony Hopkins horror film "The Rite" topped the box office this weekend, but some of the best news came for lower-budget movies that benefited from Tuesday's Oscar nominations.

"The King's Speech," "True Grit," "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" all saw very strong ticket sales, no doubt due to the multiple Academy Award nominations they received.

 "The Rite," from Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema label, had a so-so start of $15 million, according to studio estimates. Thanks to its older star, it played to a broader audience than the typical young-skewing horror film, with 64% of moviegoers older than 25. They gave it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

That's good news for New Line, signaling that the $37-million production might hold on well for several weeks in theaters.

The studio marketed the movie aggressively to Latinos and that showed in its results. The highest-grossing theater in the country was in El Paso, Texas.

"The Mechanic," the other new movie playing nationwide this weekend, opened to a decent $11.5 million. That's higher than Jason Statham's last violent vehicle, 2009's "Crank: High Voltage," which debuted to only $6.9 million, and in line with 2008's "Transporter 3," which launched to $12.1 million.

The male-heavy audience gave the film a B-. CBS Films paid only about $5 million for domestic distribution rights to the picture.

With no new movies appealing to young woman, last weekend's No. 1 picture, "No Strings Attached," saw a modest drop of just 31%. The Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy took in $13.7 million, increasing its total to $39.7 million.

It wasn't far ahead of "The King's Speech," which after receiving more Oscar nominations than any other movie expanded to 2,557 theaters from 1,680 theaters and took in a healthy $11.1 million. The Weinstein Co. release has now grossed $72.2 million, a very strong number for a historical drama. The studio revamped its marketing campaign following the announcement of its 12 Oscar nominations to focus on broad themes of friendship in hopes of drawing a very mainstream audience.

TrueGrit2 "True Grit," which got 10 nominations, achieved the rare feat of increasing ticket sales despite decreasing the number of theaters in which it played. The western directed by the Coen brothers grew 4% to $7.6 million, increasing its box office total to $148.4 million.

The boxing drama "The Fighter," which landed seven nominations, fell just 3% to $4.1 million, bringing its total receipts to $78.4 million.

"Black Swan," which had five nominations, declined only 13% to $5.1 million. Already a big hit before the Oscars, the young-skewing psychological drama is now at $90.1 million.

Not every movie benefited tremendously from a best picture nomination, however. Fox Searchlight re-released "127 Hours," starring James Franco, at 916 theaters and took in a soft $2.1 million. Its total box office receipts stand at an unimpressive $13.4 million.

Lionsgate opened "From Prada to Nada," the first Hispanic-targeted movie from its Pantelion joint venture from Televisa, at 256 theaters and took in a decent $1.1 million. Los Angeles was the biggest market for the female-skewing comedy.

In limited release, the Mexican drama "Biutiful" starring Javier Bardem, which got two Oscar nominations, opened to a so-so $460,916 at 57 theaters. Along with a brief run in late December to qualify for the Oscars, its box office total is now $623,226.

It was a slow weekend overall, due in part to heavy snow in the Northeast. Total ticket sales declined 13% from the same weekend a year ago, according to Hollywood.com.

[Update, 11:01 a.m.: Here at the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with foreign ticket sales when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Rite" (Warner Bros./New Line): Opened to $15 million.

2. "No Strings Attached" (Paramount/Spyglass/Cold Spring): $13.7 million on its second weekend, down 31%. Domestic total: $39.7 million.

3. "The Green Hornet" (Sony): $11.5 million on its third weekend, down 35%. Domestic total: $78.8 million. $15.7 million overseas in 64 foreign markets. International total: $61 million.

3. "The Mechanic" (CBS): Opened to $11.5 million.

5. "The King's Speech" (Weinstein Co.): $11.1 million on its tenth weekend, up 41%. Domestic total: $72.2 million.

6. "True Grit" (Paramount/Skydance): $7.6 million on its sixth weekend, up 4%. Domestic total: $148.4 million. $2.3 million overseas in one foreign market: Australia.

7. "The Dilemma" (Universal/Spyglass): $5.5 million on its third weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $40.6 million. $4 million overseas in 21 foreign markets. International total: $11 million.

8. "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight): $5.1 million on its ninth weekend, down 13%. Domestic total: $90.7 million. $11.4 million overseas in 16 foreign markets. International total: $29.1 million.

9. "The Fighter" (Relativity/Paramount): $4.1 million on its eighth weekend, down 3%. Domestic total: $78.4 million.

10. "Yogi Bear" (Warner Bros.): $3.2 million on its seventh weekend, down 17%. Domestic total: $92.5 million. $6.9 million overseas in 26 foreign markets. International total: $33.6 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

 Top photo: Anthony Hopkins in "The Rite." Credit: Egon Endrenyi / New Line Cinema. Bottom photo: Jeff Bridges and Hallee Steinfeld in "True Grit." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Paramount Pictures.

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