'No Strings Attached': Natalie Portman & Ashton Kutcher RomCom Tops

by Zac Gille
No Strings Attached Natalie Portman
No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman.

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. (Figures via Boxofficemojo.com.)

Most non-nominees were up as well, but more modestly, e.g., The Green Hornet, up 10 percent; Season of the Witch, up 8.5 percent. The exceptions among the top twelve movies were No Strings Attached (+21.5 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.

The King's Speech also boasted the day's highest average, $628 per theater.

Photo: The King's Speech (The Weinstein Co.)

Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher's romantic comedy No Strings Attached topped the North American box office on Tuesday with $1.87 million according to Box Office Mojo.

Starring Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, and Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, grossed $1.19 million at no. 2.

At no. 3, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, starring Oscar nominees Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, took in $1.05 million.

At no. 4, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit drew $766,000. The Coen brothers' Western stars Oscar nominees Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, in addition to Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.

Ron Howard's The Dilemma, featuring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum, pulled in $691,000 at no. 5.

Next in line were Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman's Black Swan with $672k at no. 6 and Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale's The Fighter with $466,000 at no. 7. Bale and fellow players Melissa Leo and Amy Adams received Oscar nominations in the supporting categories.

Robert De Niro-Owen Wilson-Ben Stiller's comedy Little Fockers brought in $282km at no. 8. Little Fockers earned Barbra Streisand a Razzie nod.

Rounding out the top twelve were Jeff Bridges-Garrett Hedlund 's TRON: Legacy with $250,000, Dominic Sena-Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch with $203,000, Gwyneth Paltrow-Tim McGraw-Garrett Hedlund's Country Strong with $196k,Disney's Tangled with $162,000.

Country Strong was back among the top twelve after selling 32 percent more tickets compared to the day before. Eric Brevig's Yogi Bear was thus pushed off of the top twelve chart.

Among the top-twelve movies, The King's Speech had the highest per-theater average, $628. Tangled had the lowest, $87.

Also among the top twelve, ten movies were up while two were down on Tuesday. The King's Speech posted the highest Monday-to-Tuesday attendance increase, up 66 percent. Tangled posted the highest drop-off rate, down 11.5 percent, followed by TRON: Legacy's down 1 percent.

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher's romantic comedy No Strings Attached was once again the no. 1 movie at the North American box office on Wednesday, collecting $1.41 million according to Box Office Mojo. That represented a 24.5 percent drop compared to the day before, the highest among the top-twelve movies on the chart.

Every top-twelve movie, in fact, was down on Wednesday, though several multiple-Oscar nominees fared better than the rest. For instance, up one spot at no. 2, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, took in $1.02 million, down a mere 3 percent. The King's Speech is up for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The King's Speech may even top Thursday's box office in case No Strings Attached suffers another sizable attendance tumble. (Thursday figures tend to be mixed; some movies down, others up. Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday figures are almost invariably down; Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday figures are almost invariably up across the board.)

Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, and Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, grossed $909,000, down one spot at no. 3. The Green Hornet fell below the $1m-per-day mark for the first time on Day 13.

At no. 4, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit drew $717k (-6 percent). The Coen brothers' Western stars Oscar nominees Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, in addition to Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.

Up one spot at no. 5, Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman's Black Swan brought in $551,000. Among the top Oscar contenders, Black Swan fared the worst in terms of daily attendance variations; the psychological thriller was down 18 percent.

Next in line were Ron Howard's The Dilemma, featuring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, down one spot at no. 6 with 543k and Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale's The Fighter with $400,000 (-14 percent) at no. 7.

Robert De Niro-Owen Wilson-Ben Stiller's comedy Little Fockers earned $238km at no. 8.

Rounding out the top twelve were Jeff Bridges-Garrett Hedlund 's TRON: Legacy with $224,000, Dominic Sena-Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch with $170,000, Gwyneth Paltrow-Tim McGraw-Garrett Hedlund's Country Strong with $164k,Disney's Tangled with $149,000.

Among the top-twelve movies, The King's Speech had the highest per-theater average, $609. Season of the Witch had the lowest, $74.

No Strings Attached posted the highest Tuesday-to-Wednesday drop-off rate, down 24.5 percent. The King's Speech posted the lowest, down 3 percent.

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

Jan. 24, '11, update: Weekend actuals found at Boxofficemojo.com reveal that studios way overestimated ticket sales this past weekend. The box office take of Colin Firth's The King's Speech was inflated by an absurd $1.3 million; the Ivan Reitman-directed comedy No Strings Attached, starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, grossed about $600,000 less than studio estimates; Seth Rogen's The Green Hornet, the Ron Howard comedy The Dilemma, and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's Western True Grit were victims of similarly inflated amounts.

Natalie Portman's Black Swan and Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter both took in about $300,000 less than estimated, while Peter Weir-Colin Farrell-Ed Harris' The Way Back had its take overestimated by 17 percent (or about $200,000). The adventure drama actually drew only $1.21 million at no. 15.

So, it turns out that No Strings Attached topped the North American box office with less than $20 million – $19.65 million to be exact.

Starring Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, and Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, grossed $17.67 million at no. 2. The 3D adventure flick was down 47 percent compared to the previous weekend.

The Dilemma, featuring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum, pulled in $9.1 million at no. 3.

Ron Howard's widely panned comedy was followed by The King's Speech with $7.85 million. Studio estimates were so off the mark that The King's Speech's drop-off rate went from a negligible down 0.2 percent – as reported yesterday – to down 14.5 percent. That's still a very low, Avatar-like drop, but hardly one that would turn the blue Na'vi green with envy. So, I take back what I wrote yesterday about Pandora's inhabitants.

At no. 5, True Grit took in $7.33 million. The Coen brothers' Western stars Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin.

Next in line were Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan with $5.86 million at no. 6 and the Robert De Niro-Owen Wilson-Ben Stiller comedy Little Fockers with $4.32 million at no. 7 – and thus ahead of The Fighter, which took in $4.16 million at no. 8. (Sunday estimates had The Fighter at no. 7.)

Rounding out the top twelve were Eric Brevig's Yogi Bear with $3.81 million, Jeff Bridges-Garrett Hedlund 's TRON: Legacy with $3.64 million, Disney's Tangled with $3.08 million, Dominic Sena-Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch with $2.29 million.

Gwyneth Paltrow-Tim McGraw-Garrett Hedlund's Country Strong collected $2.08 million on the no. 13 spot. Sunday estimates had Country Strong at no. 12.

Among the top-twelve movies, No Strings Attached had the highest per-theater average, $6,512. Season of the Witch had the lowest, $996.

Also among the top twelve (barring new entry No Strings Attached), Season of the Witch posted the highest weekend-to-weekend drop-off rate, down 50 percent. The King's Speech posted the lowest, down 15 percent.

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

Jan. 23

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 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.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, and starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, No Strings Attached topped the North American box office this weekend (Jan. 21-23), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Though behind The Green Hornet on Saturday, No Strings Attached ultimately came out ahead of the Seth Rogen-Jay Chou adventure flick chiefly because of much stronger Friday business for the Portman-Kutcher romantic comedy. This weekend, No Strings Attached took in $20.3 million at 3,018 sites vs. The Green Hornet's $18.1 million (down 46 percent) on its second weekend out at 3,584 locations – and remember, The Green Hornet has the advantage of costlier 3D tickets.

No Strings Attached's average was a good – though far from outstanding – $6,726 per theater vs. The Green Hornet's $5,050. Also in the No Strings Attached cast: Kevin Kline (who'd starred for Ivan Reitman in the 1993 comedy Dave), Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, and Lake Bell.

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).

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.

Directed by Michel Gondry, The Green Hornet also features Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, and Tom Wilkinson. Cume: $63.44 million. Budget: $120 million (some sources claim $150m).

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

Following No Strings Attached and The Green Hornet, Ron Howard's The Dilemma, featuring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum, pulled in $9.72 million (down 45 percent) according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Howard's much-panned comedy's total currently stands at $33.36 million. Cost: $70 million.

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.

The Dilemma was followed by Colin Firth-Geoffrey Rush's The King's Speech with $9.16 million, down a minuscule down 0.2 percent at no. 4. The addition of 137 theaters doesn't explain the near-zero drop-off rate – which would make Avatar's blue Na'vi turn green with envy – of the Tom Hooper-directed, David Seidler-written drama as that only represents a less than 10 percent increase in venues. Instead, The King's Speech sturdiness 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 total box office take currently stands at $58.62 million. Cost: $15 million. Publicity surrounding the King's unexpected Producers Guild Award victory on Saturday night surely didn't hinder its weekend box office take.

At no. 5 this weekend (Jan. 21-23), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit took in $8 million (down 27 percent). The Coen brothers' Western stars Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. Total to date: $138.63 million. Cost: $38 million.

At no. 6, Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman's Black Swan drew $6.2 million, (-26 percent). As I've mentioned before, Portman now has two movies among the top six on the North American chart. Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached, co-starring Ashton Kutcher, is the other one. Black Swan's total to date: $83.58 million. Cost: $13 million.

Next in line was Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale's The Fighter with $4.51 million, down a mere down 11.5 percent at no. 7. Total to date: $73.03 million. Cost: $25 million.

At no. 8, Robert De Niro-Owen Wilson-Ben Stiller's comedy Little Fockers drew $4.39 million (down 39 percent after losing 415 venues). Total to date: $141.18 million. Cost: $100 million.

Rounding out the top twelve were:

  • Eric Brevig's surprisingly sturdy-legged Yogi Bear with $4.06 million (down 24 percent). Total to date: $141.18 million. Cost: $100 million.
  • Jeff Bridges-Garrett Hedlund 's TRON: Legacy with $3.7 million (down 35 percent). Total to date: $163.26 million. Cost: $170 million.
  • Disney's Tangled with $3 million (down 24.5 percent). Total to date: $186.28 million. Cost: $260 million.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow-Tim McGraw-Garrett Hedlund's Country Strong with $2.2 million (down 40 percent). Total to date: $16.96 million. Cost: $15 million.

Gone from the top twelve on its third weekend out was Dominic Sena-Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch.

Among the top-twelve movies, No Strings Attached had the highest per-theater average, $6,726. Little Fockers had the lowest, $1,475.

Also among the top twelve (barring new entry No Strings Attached), The Green Hornet posted the highest weekend-to-weekend drop-off rate, down 46 percent. The King's Speech posted the lowest, a minuscule down 0.2 percent.

Photo: The Way Back (Newmarket)

Photo: The King's Speech (The Weinstein Co.)

Jan. 22

Directed by Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Dave), and starring potential Oscar contender Natalie Portman (for Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan) and Ashton Kutcher, the romantic comedy No Strings Attached easily topped the Friday, Jan. 21, box office in North America, taking in $7.31 million at 3,018 locations according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. No Strings Attached's per-theater average was a good – though certainly not outstanding – $2,424. Also in the film's cast: Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, and Lake Bell.

No Strings Attached is Ivan Reitman's first movie in five years. His previous effort, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, didn't cause much of a stir in 2006. 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.

Also, No Strings Attached, which is expected to reach $19-21 million by Sunday evening, may turn out to be Ashton Kutcher's most popular vehicle since What Happened in Vegas in 2008. Co-Starring Cameron Diaz, Vegas opened with $20.17 million at 3,255 theaters and ultimately grossed $80.27 million domestically.

Weekend studio estimates will be released Sunday morning.

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

Down one spot at no. 2, Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet earned $5.1 million at the North American box office on Friday, Jan. 21, according to Box Office Mojo. The costly adventure flick stars Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, and Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz. Of note: The Green Hornet passed the $50 million mark on Friday, cuming at $50.44 million on Day 8.

Also worth noting: at 659 locations, Peter Weir's The Way Back, starring Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, and Jim Sturgess, opened nationwide with only $375,000. The Newmarket release's per-theater average was a dismal $569. (The Way Back had a late 2010 run in Los Angeles for Oscar consideration.)

Also down one spot at no. 3, Ron Howard's The Dilemma, featuring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum, pulled in $3.03 million.

Howard's widely panned comedy was followed by Colin Firth-Geoffrey Rush's widely praised The King's Speech with $2.13 million at no. 4. The King's Speech also passed the $50 million milestone on Friday, its 57th day out. Cume to date: $51.59 million. (Of note: Not including distribution/marketing expenses, The Green Hornet cost $120-150m, depending on the source; The King's Speech cost $15 million.)

At no. 5, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit took in $2.11 million. The Coen brothers' Western stars Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin.

Down two spots at no. 6, Darren Aronofsky-Natalie Portman's Black Swan drew $1.76 million. As mentioned in my previous box office post, Portman now has two movies among the top six on the North American chart.

Next in line were Robert De Niro-Owen Wilson-Ben Stiller's comedy Little Fockers with $1.236 million at no. 7 and Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale's The Fighter with $1.23 million at no. 8.

Rounding out the top twelve were Jeff Bridges-Garrett Hedlund 's TRON: Legacy with $930,000, Eric Brevig's Yogi Bear with $740,000, Disney's Tangled with $640,000, Dominic Sena-Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch with $635,000.

Gone from the top twelve on Friday was Gwyneth Paltrow-Tim McGraw-Garrett Hedlund's Country Strong.

Among the top-twelve movies, No Strings Attached had the highest per-theater average, $2,424. Season of the Witch had the lowest, $275.

Also among the top twelve (barring new entry No Strings Attached), Yogi Bear posted the highest Thursday-to-Friday attendance increase, an astounding up 293.5 percent. Season of the Witch posted the lowest, up 110 percent.

Photo: The King's Speech (The Weinstein Co.)

Jan. 22, early morning

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher stepped on The Green Hornet on Friday, Jan. 21, when the Ivan Reitman-directed romantic comedy No Strings Attached, hardly what one would call Oscar material, landed in first place at the North American box office according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com.

No Strings Attached, whose screenplay initially carried the much more descriptive title Fuckbuddies, opened with an estimated $7.3 million at 3,018 theaters. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, and Cameron Diaz, The Green Hornet, currently screening at 3,584 theaters and with higher 3D ticket prices to boot, collected $5.2 million at the beginning of week 2 – a drop of more than 50 percent from opening day. No Strings Attached is expected to top the weekend with $20m, followed by The Green Hornet's $17 million.

Also down more than 50 percent, the Ron Howard-directed comedy The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, drew $3 million in third place, for an estimated weekend total of $10 million. Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, and Winona Ryder co-star.

Colin Firth's The King's Speech and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit followed with an estimated $2 million each. Black Swan was next with $1.7 million.

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.

Remember, those are early, rough estimates. Official studio estimates for Friday will be released Saturday morning. Weekend estimates will come out on Sunday. Weekend actuals will be released on Monday.

Photo: No Strings Attached (Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures)

4 comments

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4 comments

Ian -

Film was completely mismarketed, i.e. not marketed at all. Oscar voters barely even knew it was one of the screeners they were sent. No one knew this was coming out, and based on the reviews, the film had a good shot at some accolades and box office - but advertising muscle needed to be put behind it. Such a shame.

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LJN -

This was a terrific film! I wish the world would give it time to gain its legs. Word of mouth, if it's anything like the screening I saw, should carry it forward. I read Nat Geo relied on its Facebook and website for promotion. This film deserved a serious marketing campaign!

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ljm -

I suspect this film got pirated. If you do a search for it, there are lots of links to websites claiming to be able to watch the film for free. I saw it last Friday and thought it to be a very good film, although the ending seemed contrived. The actors all gave great performances, with the best by far being Sturgess and Ronan. Colin Farrell did great work as a down and dirty Russian street thug who is capable of murder whenver the mood strikes him. Ed Harris plays an almost Clint Eastwood, “Make my day,” sort of craggy Mr. Smith. The cinematography sweeps the viewer along in what would otherwise feel like a very long movie. My hunch is the numbers at the box office don't tell the whole story.

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Freelance -

You know, maybe a little advertising would have helped. Everyone I mentioned the film to seemed very interested in it….but they hadn't heard a thing about it before I mentioned it.

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