This Weekend's Winners: Natalie Portman's No Strings Attached ($20 million); The King’s Speech (a $9.2 million repeat of last weekend)
This Weekend's Losers: Box office overall. It’s only three-quarters of what it was last year, back when the Na’vi of Avatar showed us love-making with strings (okay, neural networking-capable hairbraids) very much attached.
How It All Went Down: When exit polls reveal 70 percent of a film’s audience to be female, and its title doesn’t feature the words "Sex," "and," or “The City," it's a special thing indeed. The Jets’ ignominious trampling under the cleats of Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall to lose the AFC championship left most of the XX-chromosome set with little choice but to speed-dial a girlfriend and ogle them some Ashton whilst their beaus screamed at the small screen.
As such, the real story this weekend was Oscar’s favorite sons, not his prodigal one:
• The King's Speech again posted a regal $9.2 million weekend. (And so what if the Weinstein Company amped up its screen count by almost 140 theaters — even when you adjust for that, Tom Hooper’s drama still lost only a tenth of its audience, a sure sign that it could be the One to Beat on the eve of February 27.
• Black Swan grossed $6.2 million over the weekend, forcing us to ask rhetorically if anyone can remember the last time a $13 million ballet movie grossed just over $80 million in eight weeks?
• The Fighter also showed tenacity, giving up barely a tenth of its audience to taking in a $4.5 million purse.
The only bad news seemed to be for Peter Weir’s latest film, the Ed Harris–Colin Farrell Siberian escape caper (an ‘es-caper’?) The Way Back, which earned less than $1.5 million despite a robust release of nearly 700 screens and which in hindsight probably shouldn’t have abandoned its original title, Gulag Break.