No Strings Dominates Quiet Box Office
By John Hamann
January 23, 2011
With the Golden Globes behind us, and the Oscar nominations only days away, it was a good weekend to be Natalie Portman. The Golden Globe Best Actress winner went from a successful dark thriller to an R-rated rom-com in No Strings Attached, and audiences didn't miss a beat. Little else was happening at the box office, except for five films having some of the stronger box office Oscar runs ever.
The number one film of the weekend is No Strings Attached, starring Natalie Portman, a Golden Globe winner, a sure Oscar nominee, a BAFTA nominee, and a Boston Film Critic winner, along with the Dude Where's My Car star Ashton Kutcher. Certainly on the back of Portman, No Strings Attached debuted this weekend to $20.3 million, a few million more than what box office tracking was indicating. No Strings Attached opened on the most number of screens ever for an R-rated romantic comedy (it helps when it's January, and yours is the only film opening), opening at 3,018 venues, and carrying an okay venue average of $6,726. This is a decent January opening for a romantic comedy, coming in close to the hideous Bride Wars, which took in $21.1 million in January 2009, and 27 Dresses, which opened to $23 million in the first month of 2008.
The strong opening of No Strings Attached has to be attributed to Natalie Portman, as it had little else going for it. The male star, Ashton Kutcher, has not had a hit since 2008's What Happens In Vegas, but that’s another title where he was saved by a strong woman - that time Cameron Diaz. Diaz opened that one to $20 million in May 2008, and brought the domestic total up to $80 million, and launched the worldwide gross into the stratosphere, as it earned $220 million around the globe.
Reviews didn’t help or hurt No Strings Attached, as critics were split down the middle. Of the 82 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, 40 were positive, leaving Strings with a middling 49% fresh rating. The trailer was cute, but didn’t have the laughs of a Judd Apatow flick; still, the R-rating didn’t scare anyone away. For Natalie Portman, this romantic comedy is almost virgin territory, as the actress has steered away from the genre most of her career. The closest thing on her resume might be Zach Braff's Garden State, which Portman helped make a huge winner. That $2.5 million film went on to earn $26.7 million domestically for Fox Searchlight. Regardless, Portman is now showing that she can open a film on her own, and will bring her fire to Kenneth Branagh's Thor, which opens in May.
Finishing second this weekend is The Green Hornet, last weekend’s number one film. Some were expecting the Sony super-hero flick to challenge No Strings Attached this weekend for number one, and it was somewhat close as The Green Hornet earned $18.1 million its second frame, off 46% compared to last weekend. It's at this point I should note that we are coming off of a long weekend, and percentage drops tend to be higher following a weekend with a holiday Monday. Still, with zero boy competition opening this weekend, one might have thought The Green Hornet may have held better. With the drop, The Green Hornet reduces its chances at $100 million domestic, but it's not off the table just yet. However, with Jason Statham's The Mechanic opening next weekend, competition will be showing up soon. Sony's Columbia Pictures spent as much as $120 million to make The Green Hornet, a number this film won’t see even if nothing was released over the next few weeks. So far, the Seth Rogen flick has earned $63.4 million, and I think it will finish with about $90 million.