Weekend Wrap-Up

The Rite Leads Slow But Competitive Box Office

By John Hamann

January 30, 2011

It's raining. Do we have to go chasing Dracula again?

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Welcome to the last weekend in January, where the new movie choices are even drearier than usual. It hasn't been a stellar month at the box office and new releases The Rite, with Anthony Hopkins, and The Mechanic, with Jason Statham, weren't going to breathe life into a struggling movie lineup. The good news this weekend is that Oscar nominations are out, and could change the landscape in the top ten. The King's Speech led the nominations with 12, and also expanded into wide release this weekend. Overall, things were still at their same sad pace versus Avatar last year, with things not looking to improve for a few more weeks.

Our number one film of the weekend is The Rite, the Warner Bros. take on the January PG-13 horror film. Starring Anthony Hopkins, The Rite dealt with a young priest trying to exorcise Hopkins' demons, with advertising looking like they were exorcising Hannibal Lecter. The ads worked to a point – The Rite earned a soft $15 million this weekend from 2,985 venues, but this it could have been much worse. The Rite carried a venue average of $5,027. I think Warner Bros. would have been looking at the numbers from films like Robert DeNiro's Hide and Seek and Michael Keaton's White Noise – two films that had above the title stars doing hokey spookers – as both of those films opened to over $20 million in January 2005. Budget data isn't available for The Rite, but one has to assume it would be somewhere in the $25-40 million range, so a domestic total of $40 million won't be a disaster, as Hopkins carries some weight at the foreign box office.


For Hopkins, The Rite is his second consecutive critical and financial disappointment. His last film following a three year sabbatical was The Wolfman, the $150 million Universal film that could only gross $62 million stateside and $142 million worldwide. It was panned by critics (33% fresh at RottenTomatoes), and was considered a missed opportunity for a Universal reboot of their classic monster characters. The Rite received even worse reviews. At RottenTomatoes, only 13 reviewers out of a possible 75 found something to like, leaving the thriller with a 17% fresh rating. It should be noted that critics thought Hopkins was okay, but the movie was so poorly written, that none of the great actors could have saved this one. Next up for Hopkins is Thor, where he plays Odin, which should provide some chewy dialogue for the Silence of the Lambs star. Until then, we will watch The Rite fade into certain obscurity.

Finishing a near second is No Strings Attached, Natalie Portman's decent sized opener from last weekend. After debuting in top spot last weekend with $19.7 million (not the $20.3 million originally estimated), No Strings Attached held well, considering the costar is Ashton Kutcher, as it earned $13.7 million and fell only 31%. The Paramount release has to be thankful for the rise of Natalie Portman, as her Golden Globe win and subsequent Oscar nomination seem to be helping No Strings Attached more than Black Swan. Paramount should be extra thankful to Portman, as they budgeted the romantic-comedy at only $25 million, a figure this one had earned by Thursday of last week. No Strings has now earned $39.7 million, and with the hold this weekend, is going to be a decent hit for Paramount, thanks to some very effective scheduling.

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