Clooney thriller takes in $16.4 mil over four days

Holiday holdovers “Little Fockers” and “True Grit” are expected to top the weekend box office despite wide berths for Relativity’s first in-house release, “Season of the Witch,” and country tuner “Country Strong.”

The Nicolas Cage starrer “Season of the Witch” opens at 2,816 engagements, while Sony/Screen Gems’ Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “Country Strong” expands to 1,424 after a limited two-week run in Nashville and Los Angeles.

The weekend’s wide entries have scored solid pre-weekend tracking, with decent total awareness and first-choice percentages among moviegoers — especially those under 30 — but insiders say they’re likely to open small.

Universal’s “Fockers,” with almost $109 million domestically, has topped the domestic charts for two weeks, though strong word of mouth and awards buzz for Paramount’s “True Grit,” with $93 million, could give the Western a slight edge this weekend. Both pics enter their third frame.

Overseas, “Fockers” and 20th Century Fox’s “Gulliver’s Travels” wrestled for top coin over the New Year’s frame, with “Fockers” taking about $25 million over the sesh for a cume of $49 million. “Fockers,” which Par is distribbing overseas, tallied $24.4 million, totaling $73.9 million internationally.

Looking to gain ground in the domestic specialty market, the Weinstein Co. expands “Blue Valentine” to the top 10 U.S. markets, totaling 38 locations, up from four engagements last weekend, when the pic posted a terrific $48,432 per-screen average.

Specialty pics “Black Swan” and “The King’s Speech” have profited from recent awards traction, with both landing in the top 10 last weekend. “Black Swan,” with better-than-expected standing during midweeks, has cumed nearly $52 million so far, while “The King’s Speech” crossed the $25 million mark. Latter adds 58 locations today, up from last week’s 700 count.

Meanwhile, Sony makes an added theatrical push for “The Social Network” in advance of the pic’s DVD launch on Jan. 11.

Though the pic was still playing at 249 locations last week, Sony execs are calling it a re-release given that most of the added 354 locations already screened the film. “Social Network,” which initially launched Stateside on Oct. 1, is poised to hit $200 million worldwide.

As Sony looks to tempt repeat auds and “Social Network” latecomers, Relativity takes the distribution reins on PG-13 rated “Season of the Witch.”

After taking over Overture’s domestic distribution operation in July, Relativity announced plans to release 10 films within a year. Early last month Relativity released martial arts-Western actioner “The Warrior’s Way,” but the company kept the pic at arm’s length, citing the effort as a service deal only for marketing and distribution. “Warrior’s Way” grossed a dismal $5.6 million domestically.

Relativity has higher hopes for “Season,” after promoting the pic at international and Stateside press junkets. Most B.O. observers expect the film to land at $10 million-$12 million, but with pre-sales to foreign distribs, the company has covered much of the pic’s estimated $40 million pricetag. Par is handling distribution for “Season” in the U.K., launching the pic day and date with the U.S.

Screen Gems’ “Country Strong” is predicted to land in the mid to high-teens. That pic, however, cost significantly less, at about $12 million.

Sony launched the film at two locations over Christmas, hoping to build word of mouth and take advantage of the holiday sesh. “Country” debuted with a so-so per-screen average of $15,226; domestic cume is $133,168. Pic should play best in the Midwest and South.

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