'Green Hornet' Tops Soft Weekend Box Office With $34 Million

Sony's 3D The Green Hornet grossed an estimated $34 million from 3,584 theaters over the weekend to nab the second-best opening ever for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Sony estimates the superhero pic will gross $40.5 million through Monday.

But Green Hornet, coming in on the lower end of expectations, couldn't reverse a troubling downturn at the domestic box office for studio popcorn titles. Overall revenues for the weekend were down at least 25% from last year, as well as being the lowest since 2007.

Ron Howard's Vince Vaughn/Kevin James comedy The Dilemma, from Universal, got off to a rough start, grossing an estimated $17.4 million from 2,940 theaters through Sunday and placing No. 2, according to Rentrak. Universal puts the four-day total at $20.7 million, far lower than the usual opening for a Vaughn or James comedy.

The bright spot continued to be specialized fare. In a notable victory for the Weinstein Co., The King's Speech successfully expanded nationwide over the weekend, grossing a robust $9.1 million from 1,583 theaters for a cume of $44.6 million.

King's Speech came in No. 4 behind Green Hornet, The Dilemma and Paramount's True Grit, respectively. King's Speech -- up for the most Golden Globe awards -- is expected to gross $11 million for the four-day weekend. Bestowed with an A+ CinemaScore, the historical drama did nearly the same amount of business that crossover indie darling Juno did on the same weekend in 2008.

True Grit continued its winning run, grossing an estimated $11.1 million for a cume of $126.4 million. Paramount estimates the film will gross a total $13.3 million for the four-day holiday weekend, putting the film's cume at $128.5 million through Monday.

Fox Searchlight's Black Swan grossed an estimated $8.1 million as it expanded from roughly 1,550 theaters to 2,328 locations. The film's cume through Sunday was $72.8 million, surpassing Sideways to become the third highest Searchlight title of all time behind Juno ($143.5 million) and Slumdog Millionaire ($141.3 million).

Sony Pictures Classics' Paul Giamatti starrer Barney's Version grabbed the best location average of the weekend, grossing an estimated $71,622 from four theaters in New York and L.A. for an average $17,906.

Sunday's Golden Globes should boost business for winning films still in the heart of their runs.

Sony's The Social Network is now out on DVD, so can't parlay any Globe wins into a major box office bump, at least domestically. The film is still playing overseas, where it grossed $2.3 million over the weekend to jump the $200 million mark worldwide with a cume of $202 million.

Sony execs extolled the performance of Green Hornet, saying a summer-like marketing campaign paid off.

The only other film to gross more over the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend was Paramount's 2008 Cloverfield, which earned $40.1 million for the three days and $46.1 million for the four days. Hornet also is the third-highest January opener after Cloverfield and a reissue of Star Wars.

"It's terrific opening for a terrific movie. It's fresh, and it's cool," Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said.

Tracking had suggested that Green Hornet would open a bit higher, and play more to younger males. As it turned out, the audience was even split between those over the age of 25, and those under. Hornet's audience was 61% male, the demo who most identify with the classic superhero.

Bruer predicted the pic will have strong legs. Green Hornetreceived a B+ CinemaScore, with younger moviegoers giving it an A-. Movie saw a 13% uptick from Friday to Saturday, indicating good word-of-mouth.

Overseas, Green Hornet did more modest business as it rolled out in about 30 territories, grossed $16 million for a total worldwide bow of $50 million.

Green Hornet cost $110 million to produce, including 3D conversion. Releasing the film in 3D boosted the film's earning potential, with about 62% of the opening gross coming from 3D screens, and about 7% from 3D Imax Digital locations.

Results for The Dilemma were in line with Universal's muted expectations. The studio knew the film might not play like a usual Vince Vaughn or Kevin James comedy, considering the storyline (a man doesn't know what to do when he discovers the wife of his best friend is having an affair).

"For a film dealing with an adult subject matter, this is where we thought we'd be," Universal president of domestic marketing Nikki Rocco said.

Dilemma, which cost $70 million to produce, received a B CinemaScore. Film skewed older, with 58% of the audience over the age of 30. Females bought 60% of all tickets.

Business has been consistently down at the domestic box office since before Christmas. Some of it has to do with Avatar, which make comparisons tough, but that's not enough to allay concerns.

Latest casualties include Relativity Media's Season of the Witch, which tumbled to No. 10 in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $4.5 million from 2,827 theaters for a cume of $18 million in its first 10 days.

In certain cases, the international box office is making up for a lackluster domestic showing. Gulliver's Travels, from 20th Century Fox, ended the weekend with a foreign cume just shy of $100 million. Domestically, the film has grossed only $37.6 million.

Some titles have been saved by modest production budgets. Sony/Screem Gems' Gwyneth Paltrow starrer Country Strong grossed an estimated $3.7 million from 1,424 theaters over the weekend for a cume of $13.3 million in its first 10 days. Country Strong, placing No. 12 for the weekend, cost $12 million to produce.

Peter Oberth
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