Another batch of northeastern winter storms once again pounded down the overall box office. As a result, the weekend’s big opener, The Rite (starring Anthony Hopkins), came in at the low end of Industry predictions. While it was marketed as a “horror” film, for the most part The Rite is more of a non-supernatural drama about the struggles with faith of a young priest (Irish unknown Colin O’Donoghue). I felt it was (mostly) competently made and acted, but could have done without the whole “based on a true story” shtick. (Most of the very dramatic parts were not, but instead were good old Hollywood make-em-ups.) But it’ll be interesting to see how word of mouth affects The Rite at the box office–I suspect horror fans will be bored by the “losing my religion” drama that makes up two-thirds of the film, and those intrigued by the questions of faith raised will be put off by the last act, which devolves into Hopkins hauling out and hamming up his Lecter growl.
2) No Strings Attached — $13.6 million
This naughty little raunch-com is probably my favorite new release of January (and therefore The Best Film of 2011… So Far!), and it seems the public agrees–it only slipped 30% in its second weekend and has already earned back its modest $25 million budget. No, it’s not a huge hit, but it will end up nicely fleshing out Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher’s box-office resumes, and is a welcome return to form for comedy director Ivan Reitman.
I caught up with this R-rated action remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson flick over the weekend–I may get a full review up later today, but in a nutshell I thought the always watchable Jason Statham and the always talented Ben Foster did a decent job of making a fairly shallow and predictable spin through the usual hit-man cliches work well enough as empty entertainment. The Mechanic did well by Industry expectations and will no doubt play even better on home video–it should also do solid overseas theatrical business.
If we’re making lists of Favorite January Movies, for whatever it’s worth this one would be my Number Two. (Though to be fair, I haven’t yet seen Peter Weir’s WWII drama The Way Back, which is playing in about 600 theaters.) In three weekends of release, the action-comedy has brought in $79 million domestically, plus another $61 from foreign screens. That edges it past its whopping $120 million budget (accrued mostly from a decade of stop-and-start preproduction costs) and should also set it up to do well on home video.
5) The King’s Speech — $11.1 million
Its new position as the Academy Awards leader (with 12 nominations) and Best Picture front runner kept The King’s Speech looking good at the box office–it gained 41% over last weekend. (The nearly 900 added theaters, bringing it to a full wide release, didn’t hurt either.) And while the film is rated R for language, in hopes of reaching an even larger audience, The Weinstein Company is considering releasing a PG-13 version next month (after the Oscars) with the frustrated swearing trimmed down.
The rest of the top ten included True Grit (still holding very strong at the box office), The Dilemma, Black Swan, The Fighter (the latter two also holding steady thanks to Oscar acting nominations), Yogi Bear, and TRON: Legacy.
This Coming Weekend
In terms of box-office buzz, no really big hitters open this coming Friday, but don’t count out the PG-13 thriller The Roommate with its hot young “It” cast (including Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, and Alyson Michalka). Despite The Roommate not being screened for critics, these sorts of horror-lite, dead-of-winter flicks featuring young women in peril (such as The Uninvited and The Unborn) often do very well with their target audience of teen girls.
Also opening wide is The Sanctum, a 3D action thriller about underwater cave divers that’s using producer James Cameron as its primary marketing hook. Normally I’d say that (plus those usual extra 3D-ticket revenues) would give it the edge over a weak field for the box-office top spot, but The Sanctum‘s R rating might slow it down. So I’m going to pick The Roommate for the upset.