Weekend box office: “No Strings Attached” receives benefits from female filmgoers

Things this weekend went pretty much exactly according to what I wrote on Thursday. Still, there was some nervousness out there.

Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, and Cary Elwes in Nikki Finke tells us the studios were skittish because of the commercial track record of leading man Ashton Kutcher; it seems I’m not the only male audience member to have a deep, lizard-brain level allergy to the Kutcher. Fortunately for Paramount, young women are the dominant (70%, possibly) audience here. The simplicity of the premise and the balancing presence of the widely beloved, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman seems to have been enough to earn “No Strings Attached” — originally, presumably very tentatively, titled “Fuckbuddies” — an estimated $20.3 million for Paramount. I didn’t care for the movie, pretty obviously, but I sort of expected it to do reasonably well. It delivers what’s advertised, has some mildly funny moments, and we’ve all been trained to think of romantic comedies as light-brained affairs. That last part just makes me sad.

Scrolling down the Box Office Mojo chart, “The Green Hornet” suffered a very typical 46% drop it’s second week. It therefore managed a respectable $18.1 million estimate for Sony, putting more than it half-way to making back its $120 million production budget. Ron Howard’s first comedy in many moons, “The Dilemma,” dropped roughly the same amount and continued on track with its soft opening at an estimate of $9.7 million for luckless but now ultra-powerful Universal, thanks to the mega-merger with Comcast.

A cluster of likely Oscar contenders are holding down the next several spots, led by “The King’s Speech.” The press loves a horserace and speculation on the very real possibility of an Oscar sweep for “The Social Network” has been slowed somewhat by the Producer’s Guild awarding of its top prize to the historical tale last night.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in

With a first-rate combination of director (Tom Hooper) and star (Colin Firth) the drama is apparently getting some outstanding word of mouth. It suffered almost no drop at all from last week and it’s estimate for the Weinstein Company is bubbling under $9.2 million. It’s going to be crossing the $60 million threshold probably by mid-week, many times it’s $15 million budget.

It was kind of a funny week in limited release. Indiewire has the details, but Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” disappointed somewhat in about 600 theaters. Probably getting a significant boost from star Paul Giamatti‘s surprise Golden Globe win, “Barney’s Version” led the week in per-screen averages, earning about $10,000 each on 16 screens. Not bad for a movie about a creature thought to be as hard to find as a yeti, an occasionally rude Canadian.

  

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“Dinner for Schmucks,” and you’re invited!

Joining “Kick-Ass” in the pantheon of film titles that would have been considered too crude by exhibitors and the MPAA not so terribly long ago is this buddy comedy. Directed by “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” alum Jay Roach, the film stars Paul Rudd as an up-and-coming executive working for a company with a mean streak, Steve Carrell as the zany, small-of-brain titular character and some pretty great supporting comic cast members. (Just for the benefit of those of you outside the Jew-loop, “schmuck” loosely translates from Yiddish as “dick” — no capitalization needed.)

American remakes of French comedies don’t often seem to work and Roach is not really my all-time favorite director, but Carrell and Rudd are both very good in these kind of roles and the trailer makes me laugh. I think there may be some hope here. (H/t Peter Sciretta of /Film.)

Oh, and I should hardly even comment about the crudeness of this title, given that apparently Paramount has a movie coming up which, at least for a time, was entitled “Fuckbuddies.” I think they’ll be going with “Friends with Benefits” or some other name instead — or look for the from director Ivan Reitman to be coming to a theater near you shortly before or after the Rapture.

  

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