No Strings Attached movie: Natalie Portman box office prowess boosts year’s first sleeper hit
Feb. 1 update: Ivan Reitman’s No Strings Attached movie – a romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher whose screenplay initially carried the more descriptive title “Fuckbuddies” – was the no. 2 movie at the domestic box office this past weekend, Jan. 28–30, having collected $13.4 million, and down a surprisingly modest 32 percent from its debut weekend.
But make no mistake. No Strings Attached is undeniably the no. 1 box office movie of 2011. Well, so far.
After all, despite poor-to-lukewarm reviews, No Strings Attached is officially the year’s first sleeper hit. Its domestic take to date has reached $39.5 million on a reported $25 million budget – though, admittedly, it’s unclear how much Paramount Pictures has shelled out on marketing and distributing their film.
Something else: Reitman’s No Strings Attached movie shows that Natalie Portman could already be considered one of the top box office draws of the year, as she’s also the star of Darren Aronofsky’s critical hit Black Swan.
Ivan Reitman’s first movie in five years, No Strings Attached earned on its debut weekend nearly as much as Reitman’s previous effort, the 2006 Uma Thurman-Luke Wilson vehicle My Super Ex-Girlfriend, earned during its entire run ($22.53 million, or approximately $27.34 million today). In fact, Reitman’s last hit was the Harrison Ford-Anne Heche vehicle Six Days Seven Nights back in 1998; the adventure comedy took in $74.33 million domestically and about $90.5 million internationally.
No Strings Attached also happens to be Ashton Kutcher’s best (inflation-adjusted) opening since What Happened in Vegas in 2008. Co-Starring Cameron Diaz, Vegas opened with $20.17 million – or $22.33 million today – at 3,255 theaters and went on to gross $80.27 million domestically and $139 million internationally.
And finally, No Strings Attached is Natalie Portman’s biggest opening weekend since V for Vendetta, which debuted with $25.64 million back in 2006. In the long run, however, No Strings Attached will probably have a tough time surpassing Portman’s Black Swan, currently with a $83.58 million domestic cume.
Natalie Portman sleeper hit no. 2: Black Swan
This past weekend, the low-budget (a reported $13 million), ballet world-set psychological drama was no. 8 on the box office chart, having added $5.1 million as per Boxofficemojo.com. To date, Black Swan has taken in $90.7 million in the U.S. and Canada – an impressive amount, especially considering that it has been achieved without the assistance of any superheroes, CGI explosions, or massive publicity blitzes.
On the other hand, loads of Best Actress mentions for Natalie Portman and a much-talked about lesbian sex scene (between Portman and Mila Kunis) may have done the trick. And let’s not forget the Academy Award nominations announced a few days ago: Black Swan is up for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress; Natalie Portman, in fact, is the odds-on favorite.
Besides Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, also in the No Strings Attached movie cast: Kevin Kline, who’d starred for Ivan Reitman in the hit 1993 political comedy Dave, plus Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, and Lake Bell.
Besides Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, Black Swan also features two-time Oscar nominee Winona Ryder (as Best Supporting Actress for The Age of Innocence, 1993; as Best Actress for Little Women, 1994), Vincent Cassel, Portman’s off-screen companion Benjamin Millepied,
Sebastian Stan, Toby Hemingway, and veteran Barbara Hershey (Last Summer, The Stunt Man, Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for The Portrait of a Lady, 1996).
Anthony Hopkins & Jason Statham flop
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom (1408, Evil, Derailed), and starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, The Rite topped a slow Jan. 28-30 weekend in North America, with the Hafstrom-Hopkins horror flick taking in $15 million. That’s hardly a spectacular opening at 2,985 locations (with a middling $5,027 average), but it’s not all that horrific for a production that cost $37 million.
Directed by Simon West, and starring action star Jason Statham, Ben Foster, and veteran Donald Sutherland, The Mechanic opened with only $11.5 million at 2,703 locations. The actioner’s per-theater average was a disappointing $4,255. Yet, The Mechanic‘s take was on a par with several other Statham action vehicles, e.g., Transporter 3, Death Race, and the original Crank, which all brought in $10-12 million on their debut weekends.
Oscar nominations boost domestic box office
Jan. 26 update: Following the Oscar nominations announcement early Tuesday morning, the North American box office was markedly up. But were the two happenings related? Absolutely.
It’s true that the U.S. and Canada box office generally goes up on Tuesdays, but the jump was higher than usual yesterday, with Oscar-nominated movies leading the charge: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, up 66 percent compared to Monday; David O. Russell’s The Fighter, up 46 percent; Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, up 34 percent; Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, up 57 percent.
Also: David Fincher’s The Social Network, up 29 percent; Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, up 37 percent; John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, up 39 percent; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit, up 41 percent. Even Shana Feste’s Country Strong, up for a Best Song Oscar, was up by 32 percent.
Most non-nominees were up as well, but more modestly, e.g., The Green Hornet, up 10 percent; Season of the Witch, up 8 percent. The exceptions among the top twelve movies were No Strings Attached (+21 percent), which not coincidentally stars Black Swan‘s Oscar nominee Natalie Portman, and The Dilemma (+20 percent), for whose box office jump I must admit I can’t find a logical explanation. Especially considering the movie in question.
Colin Firth-Geoffrey Rush’s The King’s Speech has been enjoying minuscule drop-off rates that would make Avatar‘s blue Na’vi turn green with envy. The sturdiness of the Tom Hooper-directed, David Seidler-written drama is due to the fact that it has become the cinematic darling of the 2011 awards season, an “art” movie with popular appeal. (Even though, of course, The King’s Speech isn’t really an “art” movie at all; but nowadays anything even remotely geared to audiences with an IQ higher than 20 is considered an “art film.”)
The King’s Speech cost: $15 million. Publicity surrounding the King’s unexpected Producers Guild Award victory surely didn’t hinder its box office take.
Peter Weir drama flops
Jan. 23 update: Starring Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, and Jim Sturgess, Peter Weir’s The Way Back, opened nationwide at 659 theaters (following a brief, Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles in late 2010) with a mere $1.46 million (no. 14 on the chart) according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. (The Way Back had a late 2010 run in Los Angeles for Oscar consideration.)
The Newmarket release’s average was a dismal $2,161 per theater – especially poor for a movie screening at relatively few locations. (All things being equal, the fewer the number of venues, the higher the per-theater average should be.) It’s quite possible that The Way Back will become Weir’s (inflation-adjusted) lowest grosser among his American-made films, earning even less than Fearless back in 1993 – $6.99 million then, or about $13.42 million today.
Now, a few weeks ago Jeff Bridges had two movies among the top three, True Grit and TRON: Legacy. Then Garrett Hedlund had two movies among the top ten, TRON and Country Strong. And now it’s Natalie Portman’s turn to have two vehicles among the top six, No Strings Attached and Black Swan.
The Dilemma with Channing Tatum.
‘The Green Hornet’ & ‘The Dilemma’: Disappointment + ‘Gay’ Debut
Jan. 16 update: Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry’s 3D adventure flick The Green Hornet collected $34 million at the North American box office this weekend (Jan. 14-16), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.
Though the $34 million take is above the one predicted a couple of days ago, there’s no way The Green Hornet will be able to recoup its reported $150 million production budget – not to mention distribution/advertising costs – at the domestic box office. Remember, studios only keep about 50-55 percent of a movie’s domestic gross. It would take The Green Hornet eight to nine weeks earning $34 million domestically for Sony to match the film’s budget.
If the international market doesn’t come to the rescue, as was the case with domestic box office disappointments such as Universal’s Robin Hood and Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Sony Pictures will have another expensive box office disappointment in its hands following the Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp spy caper The Tourist, which at least has done quite well internationally, and the Reese Witherspoon comedy How Do You Know.
The Green Hornet‘s initial take overseas hasn’t been all the promising, with a relatively modest $16.1 from 35 countries over the weekend. That’s the lowest gross for a top film in the international market since Sony’s own Resident Evil: Afterlife back in Oct. 2010.
Assisted by costlier 3D ticket prices (69 percent of the film’s total take), The Green Hornet averaged $9,487 at 3,584 locations.
International Box Office source: The Hollywood Reporter
At no. 2 this weekend, Ron Howard’s comedy-drama The Dilemma, best known for its gay slur controversy, and starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum, brought in a soft – or in Dilemma parlance, “totally gay” – $17.41 million according to studio estimates found at Boxofficemojo.com.
That’s not exactly great news for a movie with a reported $70 million budget. At 2,940 theaters, The Dilemma averaged a disappointing $5,925 per site. Also, US critics found the Ron Howard movie gayer than the electric car, as The Dilemma earned a lowly 31 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
Whether this $70 million star vehicle will reach $20 million over the three-day weekend remains debatable (even though Monday is Martin Luther King’s Day in the United States), especially if word of mouth is as poor as the reviews. At 2,940 theaters, The Dilemma averaged a disappointing (for this type of dumb comedy with a stellar cast) $2,075 per site. Howard’s flick also features Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum, and Queen Latifah.
Universal, a studio that offered a whole string of expensive flops in 2010 (e.g., The Wolfman, Green Zone, MacGruber), has in The Dilemma its first 2011 dud. Compounding matters, neither Vince Vaughn nor Kevin James has much of an international following. Wedding Crashers, Couples Retreat, Four Christmases, The Break-Up, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Grown Ups, Paul Blart: Mall Cop made much more money in the United States than elsewhere, as international audiences apparently prefer their braindead movie humor wrapped in different packages.
French Films Down: Roman Polanski ‘The Ghost Writer’ Major Hit
French productions and co-productions sold 17.9 percent fewer tickets abroad in 2010 when compared to 2009, according to uniFrance, which promotes French cinema around the world. French films sold an estimated 57.2 million tickets internationally in 2010. Of those, 13 million were sold in the United States – vs. 23 million the previous year. That represents a 45 percent drop in the US.
According to uniFrance, the problem was that 2010 lacked a breakout French box office hit. You may not think of the Liam Neeson vehicle Taken as “French,” but the Pierre Morel-directed thriller was chiefly financed by Luc Besson’s Europacorp. In 2009, Taken alone sold an estimated 23 million tickets worldwide.
The 2010 releases had less popular appeal. The biggest hits were Roman Polanski’s English-language The Ghost Writer; Pierre Morel’s much less successful From Paris with Love, starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; and Jacques Perrin’s documentary Oceans, with each selling about 6.5 million tickets.
Apart from Oceans, the two biggest French-language international hits were Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, starring Louise Bourgoin and Mathieu Amalric, which sold 3.1 million tickets, and Radu Mihaileanu’s The Concert, starring Mélanie Laurent, which sold 1.8 million.
Curiously, revenues were down only 6.1 percent partly because French films performed well in countries such as Japan, where ticket prices are more expensive. Ticket-price inflation surely played a role as well, in addition to the weaker euro, which likely made earnings from abroad more profitable.
‘True Grit’ tops + Nicolas Cage ‘Season of the Witch’ bombs
Jan. 15 update: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit remained the no. 1 movie at the U.S. and Canada box office on Thursday, Jan. 13, according to Box Office Mojo. StarringCritics’ Choice Awards’ Best Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, True Grit took in $1.37 million.
At no. 2 for the fourth day in a row, Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman’s Black Swan pulled in $960k. The psychological drama co-stars Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder. Portman was the Broadcast Film Critics’ Best Actress.
At no. 3, Little Fockers collected $845,000. Directed by Paul Weitz, Little Fockers stars Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and Jessica Alba. As far as I know, Little Fockers hasn’t won or been nominated for anything. (The Razzies will be announced in a week or so. Things may change then.)
Jan. 11 update: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s Western True Grit may have failed to receive a nomination for the Directors Guild Awards on Monday, but it was once again the no. 1 movie at the North American box office according to Box Office Mojo. Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, True Grit took in $1.11 million.
But one more time, the day’s real success story belonged to Black Swan: Following a 64 percent Sunday-to-Monday drop, the lowest among the top twelve movies, Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman’s Black Swan pulled in $811,000 at no. 2 – up three spots – on its 39th day out. To date, that’s the psychological drama’s highest position on the chart. Black Swan co-stars Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder.
Jan. 10 update: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit – though down 40 percent – did indeed top the North American weekend box office chart for the first time thanks to Little Fockers’ down 48 percent drop-off rate.
True Grit, starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, took in $14.6 million according to actuals found at Box Office Mojo. Starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and Jessica Alba, Little Fockers collected $13.48 million.
Jan. 9 update: On its third weekend out, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit – though down a not inconsiderable 39 percent – topped the North American weekend box office chart for the first time. But True Grit‘s box office victory was less a result of Rooster Cogburn’s strong legs than of the fact that Paul Weitz’s comedy Little Fockers didn’t soar as highly on Saturday as in the previous two weekends.
True Grit, starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, grossed $15 million according studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Starring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and Jessica Alba, Little Fockers earned $13.8 million (down 46.5 percent).
True Grit‘s total to date: $110.43 million. Cost: $38 million. Little Fockers’ total to date: $124 million (plus another $110 million internationally). Cost: $100 million.
Following True Grit and Little Fockers this weekend was the Nicolas Cage vehicle Season of the Witch, the latest Cage clunker. A clunker, however, that took in $10.72 million domestically – $3,809 per theater – as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.
Although that figure suggests Relativity’s $40 million period adventure is underperforming (relative to its cost), it also suggests that there are lots of people in North America willing to shell out $12 to sit through two hours of one more trashy Nicolas Cage release. That says a whole lot about the general movie culture – or lack thereof. Directed by Dominic Sena, Season of the Witch wasn’t screened for critics, but it currently has a hardly bewitching 4 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ “overall” critics (apparently people who paid to watch the movie and then wrote their reviews).
At no. 6, Shana Feste’s Country Strong, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, and Garrett Hedlund drew $7.3 million after expanding to 1,424 locations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Screen Gems release was heavily marketed in the regions of the United States where people are into country music. If so, the strategy was no failure. Country Strong averaged a good – though hardly outstanding – $5,126 per site, while providing Garrett Hedlund with another movie on North America’s top-ten chart. Total: $7.4 million. Cost: $15 million (some sources say $12 million).
Natalie Portman No Strings Attached movie image: Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures.
Garrett Hedlund Country Strong image: Sony Pictures / Screen Gems.
Dustin Hoffman Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.
“No Strings Attached Movie: Natalie Portman Stardom Solidified + Peter Weir & Vince Vaughn Bomb” last updated in August 2019.