Inside Pulse Box Office Report: True Grit Stalwart, Dethrones Little Fockers

This weekend marked the official start of a new box office year with a complete week in the books and new titles looking to cash in during the dead period of major releases. But neither Season of the Witch or Country Strong factored into deciding the top movie for the weekend. Nope, instead it was up to a pair of holiday leftovers.

For two straight weeks Little Fockers reigned supreme. Crossover appeal with families and the holidays made it a big attraction, despite not being a worthwhile one. But with the holidays over, the Coen brothers’ True Grit was able to size up the comedy that was standing in its way and cut it down to size with Rooster’s trusty six-shooter. It may have taken three weeks, but it just shows you that the western had the grit that Fockers lacked.

Since its opening, the Paramount Pictures release has taken in $110 million. That’s an impressive number when you consider that it is 1) a western, and 2) came at a price of $38 million to make. The question remains if this old-fashioned western will be appealing to foreign audiences. Let I remind you that the Hollywood Foreign Press totally ignored it when filling out its ballots for Golden Globe nominations. There have been exceptions where westerns have actually performed better overseas (Dances with Wolves, for example), but those are very rare. Currently, True Grit is the third most successful western of all time between Kevin Costner’s epic and the Will Smith starring Wild Wild West, but will likely overtake the second spot on that list by Wednesday.

Between now and Oscars, it’s very likely that Rooster Cogburn can supplant Mr. Dances with Wolves and be recognized as the highest-grossing western of all time.

Meanwhile, with Little Fockers we’ve seen nothing but a downward trend week by week, and it is dropping faster than Meet the Fockers did six years ago. Internationally it should perform as well as it has done here, so that will make the suits at Universal happy. But when it is all said and done it will be the weakest entry in the series by far and should signal the end.

Taking the bronze this weekend was the Nicolas Cage flick Season of the Witch. The project marks the actor’s first of five forays on the big screen this year, and will next be followed by Drive Angry 3D in February. Cage may have an Oscar, but he isn’t the same draw he once was when he had the action trifecta of The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off in the mid-’90s. Budgeted around $40 million, Witch was originally to be a Lionsgate release of a Relativity Media production last March. However, the film would be delayed (reshoots?) until RM made the decision to have it be its first inhouse production and release it in Jan. 2011. If this is a sign of things to come for RM, employees might be thinking of updating those resumes pronto.

Tron Legacy is just about to cross $150 million, but overseas numbers aren’t quite up to that number…yet. $300 million worldwide is an optimistic goal, but you know Disney execs wanted this to be close to the $500-$600 million range. So while it won’t be a blockbuster movie, tie-ins like toys, videogames and TV show hope to make the entire Tron Legacy brand a multimedia success story.

Country Strong had been playing in two theaters as an Oscar-qualifying run, but its numbers weren’t that strong – pretty weak, actually. Expanding to 1,422 new locations this weekend, the country music drama went looking for an audience. It’s still looking. Even with an Oscar winner like Gwyneth Paltrow and country singer Tim McGraw, who should at the very least attract those who enjoyed The Blind Side, the audience didn’t bite. You can never tell with audiences when a musical drama enters the marketplace. Walk the Line was a hit, while Almost Famous was passed. Considering that this is Tobey Maguire’s second chance at producing, you would think that his Spidey sense would have told them this had DOA written all over it. Oh yeah, he isn’t Spider-Man anymore.

Black Swan continues to be one of the best success stories for independents. It has achieved what no other release in 2010 has done in less than 2,000 theaters: it crossed $60 million. The ballet thriller keeps pirouetting around the likes of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is now gone from the top 10 after five weeks. With award season picking up steam, who knows what its final total will be. It should continue to be a part of the top ten between now and the Oscars in February, then, depending on how many awards it wins, it could be around for a few more weeks after that. The Darren Aronofsky film is still outpacing the likes of The Fighter, which should eclipse $60 million by the end of next week, and The King’s Speech, which has netted $33 million despite playing in less than 800 theaters.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel of this top ten are Yogi Bear and Tangled, two family features that are hanging around because of a lack of competition in the genre. Right behind those two is the third Chronicles of Narnia release. None of them will be blockbusters in the U.S., but Voyage of the Dawn Treader is on pace to be the best performer overseas.

Over at the arthouse, Blue Valentine collected $719k on 40 screens, while Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere expanded to 17 locations taking in $160k. Sony Pictures Classics’ Another Year, though only playing on seven screens, had a $13k per-screen average overall, and the second-best per-screen average for the weekend, behind Valentine. And talk about sickening, Rabbit Hole and The Illusionist are playing on a total of 37 screens yet Gulliver’s Travels is still playing on 2600+ screens. Like I said, “sickening.” Do whatever you have to do to see quality cinema, people.

Box Office Estimates taken from

1. True Grit – $15 million ($110 mil. overall)
2. Little Fockers – $13.8 million ($124 mil. overall)
3. Season of the Witch – $10.7 million
4. Tron Legacy – $9.8 million ($148 mil. overall)
5. Black Swan – $8.4 million ($61 mil. overall)
6. Country Strong – $7.3 million ($7.4 mil. overall)
7. The Fighter – $7 million ($58 mil. overall)
8. The King’s Speech – $6.8 million ($33 mil. overall)
9. Yogi Bear – $6.8 million ($76 mil. overall)
10. Tangled – $5.2 million ($176 mil. overall)

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