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The King’s Speech Box Office: Year’s Biggest Sleeper Blockbuster

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The King’s Speech movie Colin FirthThe King’s Speech movie with Colin Firth: Directed by Tom Hooper and costarring Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, the acclaimed biographical drama went on to become the biggest global sleeper hit released in 2010.
  • The King’s Speech box office: Starring Colin Firth as the stammering British king-to-be George VI, The Weinstein Company’s Tom Hooper-directed biographical drama has had a sensational U.S. debut.
  • Update: The King’s Speech has gone on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and to become the biggest global sleeper hit released in 2010.

The King’s Speech box office: Starring Colin Firth, Tom Hooper’s critically acclaimed period drama has had a fantastic U.S. debut

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Nov. 26–28 (Thanksgiving) weekend box office (cont.): Starring Academy Award nominee Colin Firth (A Single Man, 2009) as a crowd-pleasing version of Britain’s soon-to-become King George VI, Tom Hooper’s real-life-based period drama The King’s Speech has turned out to be a “blockbuster” in limited release.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company, the mostly British production – financed with the assistance of the now-defunct UK Film Council – grossed an outstanding $355,450 from only four theaters – two in Los Angeles; two in New York City – according to final studio figures found at

The King’s Speech has thus scored 2010’s highest domestic (U.S. and Canada) per-theater average to date: $88,862. The year’s previous record-holder was Lisa Cholodenko’s lesbian family comedy-drama The Kids Are All Right, which averaged $70,281 per venue when it opened at seven theaters in early July.

Now, bear in mind that when discussing such small number of theaters it makes a big difference when you go from four to seven locations. All things being equal, the lower the number of theaters the higher the per-theater average should be.

Sleeper hit in the making

Budgeted at only $15 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses, which, in this high-profile instance, must have been heftier than usual for such a low-budget production), The King’s Speech will undoubtedly become one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits.

Besides Colin Firth as the stammering Prince Albert/King George VI, the cast includes Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine, 1996) as Australian language therapist Lionel Logue, Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove, 1997) as the Duchess of York/Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce as the Duke of Windsor/King Edward VIII, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, and Michael Gambon as King George V.

Also: Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Anthony Andrews, Orlando Wells, Eve Best, and veteran Claire Bloom (Limelight, The Haunting) in a notable cameo as Queen Mary/the Queen mother.

The King’s Speech Claire BloomThe King’s Speech with Claire Bloom as Queen Mary/the Queen mother: A star since appearing opposite Charles Chaplin in the 1952 drama Limelight, Bloom has been seen in dozens of movies, television productions, and plays (both on Broadway and the West End).

Oscar winner gets a modest boost

March 2011 update: This year’s Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Adapted Screenplay (David Seidler) Academy Award winner, The King’s Speech has received a modest post-Oscar ceremony boost at the domestic box office.

After the addition of 300 theaters on Oscar weekend (Feb. 25–27), the period drama drew in $872,000 from 2,186 locations on Tuesday, March 1, and $730,000 the next day. These were its best Tuesday/Wednesday grosses since the first week of February.

By the following weekend (March 4–6), however, the Oscar boost had already dissipated. After having lost 146 theaters, The King’s Speech was down 15 percent from the previous weekend.

2010’s biggest global sleeper blockbuster

Update: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech ultimately collected $135.5 million domestically and $288.5 million internationally. Worldwide total: $424 million.

In spring 2011, The Weinstein Company released in the domestic market a much-criticized PG-13 version of the film. It flopped, grossing only $3.3 million, in addition to $31,000 in two other territories.

Final take in the U.S. and Canada: 138.8 million. Final worldwide take: A hugely profitable $427.4 million, easily making the biographical drama – no. 12 on the global box office chart – the biggest sleeper hit released in 2010. (The Darren Aronofosky-Natalie Portman ballet thriller Black Swan was a distant no. 2.)

Its top international markets were the United Kingdom/Ireland (where The King’s Speech was a domestic production, with a sensational $74.9 million), Australia ($32.6 million), France ($26.8 million), Germany ($23.6 million), Japan ($21.4 million), Spain ($15.9 million), Italy ($12.5 million), Brazil ($7 million), Poland ($6.2 million), South Korea ($5.6 million), Sweden ($5.4 million), the Netherlands ($5.2 million), and Switzerland ($5.2 million).

The King’s Speech Box Office: Year’s Biggest Sleeper Blockbuster” notes

Unless otherwise noted, “The King’s Speech Box Office: Year’s Biggest Sleeper Blockbuster” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,, etc.).

Comments about The King’s Speech and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Claire Bloom and Colin Firth The King’s Speech movie images: The Weinstein Company.

The King’s Speech Box Office: Year’s Biggest Sleeper Blockbuster” last updated in October 2023.

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