Box office: 'True Grit' beats 'Little Fockers'; 'Season of the Witch' and 'Country Strong' start soft [Updated]
The Coen brothers-directed western was No. 1 on a very soft post-New Year's weekend at the box office, as its ticket sales dropped a bit less than the winner of the last two weekends, "Little Fockers."
"Grit," which stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, declined 39% to a studio-estimated $15 million, while the star-laden comedy "Little Fockers" was off 47% at $13.8 million, according to studio estimates.
Neither of the weekend's two new films did much business. The Nicolas Cage historical action film "Season of the Witch" opened to only $10.7 million, and the Gwyneth Paltrow drama "Country Strong" debuted to $7.3 million.
Both pictures were relatively inexpensive to make, however, leading the studios behind them to say they weren't disappointed with the less-than-impressive results.
"Witch" cost about $40 million, and financier Relativity Media offset much of the budget with sales to foreign distributors, significantly reducing the risk of its domestic release. Still, the poorly reviewed movie set in the 14th century failed to draw many people and didn't impress the audience that did come, with attendees giving it an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That means it will likely fade from theaters quickly in the coming weeks.
An unusually high 69% of the audience for "Season of the Witch" was non-white, with more Latinos coming than any other ethnic group, according to exit polls.
Originally set to be released by Lionsgate last March, "Season of the Witch" was instead put out by Relativity under its new distribution operation.
"Country Strong" was an even smaller bet for Sony's Screen Gems label, costing only $12.5 million to produce. It garnered better responses, getting an average grade of B from its mostly female audience. Unsurprisingly, given its subject matter, "Country Strong" was particularly popular in the South -- the Dallas market, for instance, earned the film its second-highest gross in the country.
"True Grit" this weekend became the first Coen brothers movie to surpass $100 million at the domestic box office. It could become their first to hit $150 million, particularly if the movie receives a number of Academy Award nominations.
Paramount Pictures and co-financier Skydance Productions are poised to make a big profit on the movie, which cost only $38 million to make.
"Little Fockers" fell further behind the previous film in the comedy series this weekend. Its drop was significantly higher than the 32% decline for "Meet the Fockers," which opened on the same date in 2004, on its third weekend.
Still, with a domestic total of $124 million, an international take of $110 million and a projected worldwide final of about $300 million, the costly comedy will end up a solid hit, if not as big as its backers had hoped. Domestic distributor Universal Pictures, foreign distributor Paramount Pictures and Relativity Media spent between $130 million and $140 million to make the movie, according to three people familiar with the budget, though a Universal spokeswoman said the cost was $100 million.
Among other movies already in theaters, two showed staying power. The Darren Aronofsky-directed indie hit "Black Swan," starring Natalie Portman, dropped only 6% on its sixth weekend in theaters, to $8.4 million. Its box-office total is now an impressive $61.5 million.
The British historical drama "The King's Speech" declined only 12% on its seventh weekend in theaters, to $6.8 million. Its box-office total is $33.3 million.
The studios behind both movies still plan to expand the number of theaters in which they play, which will likely significantly boost their final box-office totals.
In limited release, the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams relationship drama "Blue Valentine" expanded from four to 40 theaters on its second weekend and grossed a solid if not spectacular $718,800, taking its total to $1.2 million.
[Updated, 11:38 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with foreign ticket sales when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:
1. "True Grit" (Paramount/Skydance): $15 million on its third weekend, down 39%. Domestic total: $110.4 million.
2. "Little Fockers" (Universal/Paramount/Relativity): $13.8 million on its third weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $124 million. $20 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. International total: $110 million.
3. "Season of the Witch" (Relativity): Opened to $10.7 million.
4. "Tron: Legacy" (Disney): $9.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $147.9 million. $17.6 million overseas in 43 foreign markets. International total: $143.2 million.
5. "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek): $8.4 million on its sixth weekend, down 6%. Domestic total: $61.5 million.
6. "Country Strong" (Sony Screen Gems): Opened to $7.3 million.
7. "The Fighter" (Relativity/Paramount): $7 million on its fifth weekend, down 30%. Domestic total: $57.8 million.
8. "The King's Speech" (Weinstein Co.): $6.8 million on its seventh weekend, down 12%. Domestic total: $33.3 million.
9. "Yogi Bear" (Warner Bros.): $6.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $75.6 million.
10. "Tangled" (Disney): $5.2 million on its seventh weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $175.9 million. $26.3 million overseas in 43 foreign markets. International total: $179.3 million.]
-- Ben Fritz
Photos, from top: Ed Lee Corbin in "True Grit." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Paramount Pictures. Gwyneth Paltrow in "Country Strong." Credit: Scott Garfield / Sony Screen Gems