“The Rite” Wins Weekend Box Office
By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com: While there were two major openers over the weekend and both of them opened within expectations, the real news was the performance of the various Oscar nominees that were in a position to capitalize on last week’s nominations. Generally speaking, the news was good all around. Topping the weekend was The Rite, as the heavily-advertised religious thriller opened with $15 million. As far as religious horror pictures go, it pales to the $30 million scored by The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 2005, the $19 million earned by The Exorcist: The Beginning in 2004, the $20 million earned in the opening jaunt of The Last Exorcism several months ago (a surprisingly terrific little movie, by the way), and even the $19 million opening weekend of Stigmata from way back in September 1999. Still, The Rite had less overtly horror-ific moments to highlight in the ad campaign, as it mainly had a few fleeting shots of supernatural terror plus Anthony Hopkins to sell. The $35 million Warner Bros/New Line Cinema release will do just fine in the long run, and the film (for what it’s worth) is Anthony Hopkins’s biggest opening weekend for a top-billed star vehicle where he doesn’t play Hannibal Lecter.
The other wide release was The Mechanic, which opened with $11.6 million. The most surprising thing about the box office performance of this Jason Statham vehicle (itself a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson thriller), was that it managed a 3.0x weekend multiplier, which is quite rare in this day and age. Otherwise, the $11.5 million weekend falls right in Statham’s zone of normality for his B-movie action pictures, as most of them generally open between $9 million and $12 million. For CBS Films, this is indeed a win, as they were able to deliver box office results similar to the Statham action films distributed by Lionsgate (War – $10 million, Crank – $10 million, and The Transporter 3 – $12 million), Fox (The Transporter – $9 million), Universal (Death Race – $12 million), and New Line Cinema (Cellular – $10 million). Statham has made a genuine niche for himself with these old-fashioned B-movie action pictures, which has pretty much been vacated by everyone else over the last ten years. In a fashion, Jason Statham is truly the ‘last action hero’. The film cost a high (for this genre) $40 million, so it will have to depend on rentals and cable re-runs to make it into black, which shouldn’t be a problem (USA will run this one until the end of days). The only other semi-wide new release was the Lionsgate comedy, From Prada to Nada (a modern-day take on Sense and Sensibility), which grossed $1.1 million on 256 screens.
In Oscar news, The King’s Speech went uber-wide and shot up 41% after receiving twelve Oscar nominations and scoring the Director’s Guild Award just last night. The acclaimed historical drama grossed $11 million in its sixth weekend of wide release, bringing the total up to $72 million. The rest of the Oscar picks still in wide release were helped by the nominations, but it was more a case of lessening the weekend drops than a huge jump in ticket sales. True Grit (+3%) is now at $148 million, Black Swan (-13%) sits at $90 million, and The Fighter (-2.7%) is at $78 million. 127 Hours expanded to 900 screens but only captured another $2 million. It’s not a huge jump for the Best Picture/Best Actor nominee, but the film is now at $13 million and could hit $20 million if it can keep the pace (if James Franco actually wins Best Actor, then $25-$30 million is not out of the question).
Rabbit Hole dropped just 5% and sits with $1.5 million, while the Best Actress nomination for Nicole Kidman gives the low-key drama an outside shot at recouping its $5 million budget. Biutiful, which played for exactly three days in a couple theaters at the end of the year for Academy consideration, opened in real limited release (57 screens) and earned about $8,000 per screen on the back of Javier Bardem’s Best Actor nomination. Blue Valentine added another $1.5 million, thanks to the Best Actress nomination for Michelle Williams. The romantic drama has now grossed $6 million. Finally, The Social Network remains on over three hundred screens, as it desperately tries to cross the $100 million mark in time for Oscar night. It’s at $96 million so far.
In holdover news, No Strings Attached dropped just 30% in weekend two, giving the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher romantic-comedy $39 million in ten days, or about what The Dilemma has grossed in seventeen days (at 3x the cost of the $25 million No Strings Attached). The Green Hornet held up strong, dropping 36% in weekend three and giving the surprisingly popular (because it’s surprisingly good) superhero adventure $78 million in seventeen days. $100 million domestic is well-within the realm of possibility. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I has now grossed $292.2 million domestically, making it the third-biggest grosser of the series in America and the second-biggest worldwide grosser in the franchise ($943 million).
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