Weekend Box Office (January 7 - 9, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Holiday holdovers True Grit and Little Fockers swapped positions atop the North American box office as new releases were met with modest business. Kidpics suffered the worst declines coming off of the New Year's holiday session while awards hopefuls held up the best as audiences caught up on buzzworthy films getting the most acclaim. Overall it was a sluggish session with the top ten slumping to the worst showing in 11 years for the first weekend of January.

The Golden Globes snubbed the Western True Grit but moviegoers sent it across the $100M mark this weekend as the Coen brothers hit dropped only 40% in its third frame for a $14.6M take, according to final studio figures. Paramount's critically acclaimed drama rose to $110M becoming the first film ever from the Oscar-winning brothers to join the century club. After two weeks in the number two position, the Jeff Bridges-Matt Damon film finally seized control of the box office crown and expects to keep the momentum going in the weeks ahead, especially with Academy Award nominations set to be announced soon.

Taking the silver medal after winning two golds was Universal's comedy threequel Little Fockers which fell 48% to $13.5M raising the total to $123.7M in 19 days. The latest installment is running 39% behind the pace of its predecessor Meet the Fockers which remained at number one this same weekend six years ago with a much stronger $28.5M which put it over the $200M mark.

The new Nicolas Cage adventure film Season of the Witch debuted in third place with $10.6M from 2,816 locations for a mild $3,769 average. Crucified by film critics, the PG-13 tale of Medieval knights transporting an accused witch was the first release for Relativity Media for its own production. The $40M-budgeted pic skewed to an older male audience with 52% being men and 61% over 25. A poor C+ CinemaScore grade indicates a rocky road ahead.

The action pic TRON: Legacy followed in fourth with $10.1M, off 46%, giving Disney $148.2M to date. Overseas, the tally for the 3D effects flick rose to $143.2M for a global haul of $291.4M.

Audiences continue to find the ballet thriller Black Swan which enjoyed the lowest drop of any wide release with a scant 9% dip to $8.1M in its sixth weekend. The Fox Searchlight release has collected an impressive $61.2M to date. With its incredible legs plus anticipated boosts from the Martin Luther King holiday frame, possible Golden Globe wins, and definite Academy Award nominations, the Natalie Portman pic stands to reach a much bigger audience in the weeks ahead on its way past the $100M mark. Swan will add more than 400 theaters to its run on Friday putting it into over 2,000 locations for the first time. The unorthodox movie is becoming the "it film" of the season going beyond the traditional arthouse crowd.

The Gwyneth Paltrow music drama Country Strong went national after a platform bow two weeks ago and grossed $7.3M from 1,424 theaters for a decent $5,145 average. Critics were mostly unkind to the PG-13 story of a washed up country singer trying to fix her life up. According to studio research, 73% of the audience was female and 51% was over 30. The CinemaScore grade was a moderate B+.

Paramount's The Fighter dipped 30% to $7M and upped its total to $57.8M. With $6.6M was the family comedy Yogi Bear which fell 46% raising the sum to $75.4M for Warner Bros.

The King's Speech fared better slipping only 18% to $6.4M for a $32.9M cume for The Weinstein Co. Playing in just one-quarter of the theaters, the Colin Firth pic averaged a sturdy $8,462 from 758 locations, easily the best average of any film in the top ten.

Rounding out the top ten was the animated blockbuster Tangled which dropped 48% to $5.1M boosting the total to a robust $175.8M. The Rapunzel hit is now Disney's top-grossing non-Pixar toon since 1994's The Lion King. Overseas, Tangled vaulted to $179.3M for a new worldwide take of $355M. Add in TRON, and Disney has pulled in a stellar $646M this holiday season so far with just two films.

Sony expanded its Best Picture frontrunner The Social Network going from 249 to 603 theaters but saw mild results with $653,209 and $1,083 average. The cume inched up to $94.1M ahead of Tuesday's DVD release.

The top ten films grossed $89.4M which was down a steep 38% from last year when Avatar stayed in the top spot with $50.3M; and down 26% from 2009 when Gran Torino expanded to number one with $29.5M.

Compared to projections, Season of the Witch and Country Strong both opened slightly below my respective forecasts of $12M and $9M.

Check the UPDATED box office charts for the Top 2010 Blockbusters and Golden Globe nominee grosses.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a review of True Grit visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Green Hornet and The Dilemma open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jan 7 - 9 Dec 31 - Jan 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 True Grit $ 14,605,135 $ 24,416,515 -40.2 3,124 3 $ 4,675 $ 110,035,157 Paramount
2 Little Fockers 13,487,245 25,766,485 -47.7 3,675 3 3,670 123,687,760 Universal
3 Season of the Witch 10,612,375 2,816 1 3,769 10,612,375 Relativity
4 TRON: Legacy 10,090,002 18,756,973 -46.2 3,013 4 3,349 148,212,420 Buena Vista
5 Black Swan 8,113,011 8,881,595 -8.7 1,584 6 5,122 61,218,504 Fox Searchlight
6 Country Strong 7,326,165 41,506 1,424 3 5,145 7,463,454 Sony
7 The Fighter 7,001,504 10,005,066 -30.0 2,528 5 2,770 57,845,946 Paramount
8 Yogi Bear 6,641,250 12,385,000 -46.4 3,288 4 2,020 75,436,771 Warner Bros.
9 The King's Speech 6,414,407 7,775,463 -17.5 758 7 8,462 32,896,665 Weinstein Co.
10 Tangled 5,111,098 9,803,091 -47.9 2,383 7 2,145 175,779,496 Buena Vista
11 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage... 4,601,403 10,252,775 -55.1 2,814 5 1,635 94,532,196 Fox
12 Gulliver's Travels 4,588,731 9,300,099 -50.7 2,964 3 1,548 34,448,321 Fox
13 The Tourist 3,766,574 6,625,759 -43.2 2,442 5 1,542 61,157,944 Sony
14 Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows Part 1 2,353,398 4,651,699 -49.4 1,507 8 1,562 287,661,770 Warner Bros.
15 How Do You Know 1,876,869 4,547,420 -58.7 1,902 4 987 28,833,657 Sony
16 Blue Valentine 704,339 193,728 263.6 40 2 17,608 1,144,584 Weinstein Co.
17 The Social Network 653,209 464,543 40.6 603 15 1,083 94,077,470 Sony
18 Unstoppable 342,784 524,921 -34.7 398 9 861 80,023,247 Fox
19 Love and Other Drugs 290,028 205,729 41.0 212 7 1,368 31,683,172 Fox
20 Megamind 274,872 630,940 -56.4 375 10 733 144,674,384 Paramount
Top 5 $ 56,907,768 $ 91,577,748 -37.9
Top 10 89,402,192 137,343,062 -34.9
Top 20 108,854,399 156,230,794 -30.3
Top 20 vs. 2010 108,854,399 156,467,940 -30.4

Last Updated: January 11, 2011 at 12:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.