'Witch' opens behind holiday holdovers

After two weeks of playing second fiddle to Universal’s “Little Fockers,” Paramount’s leggy holiday holdover “True Grit” muscled its way atop the domestic B.O. with an estimated $15 million, lifting the pic’s Stateside cume to $110.4 million.

Softer performances from Relativity Media’s “Season of the Witch,” with an estimated $10.7 million, and Sony/Screen Gems’ “Country Strong,” with $7.3 million, allowed holdovers to dominate. “Season,” toplining Nicolas Cage, is the first release of an inhouse production for Relativity, while Gwyneth Paltrow tuner “Country Strong” expanded nationwide on Friday after its limited two-week run in Nashville and Los Angeles.

Both wide entries were expected to open modestly since early January typically is led by seasonal leftovers.

Par’s “True Grit,” which was co-financed

by Skydance Prods., has broadened to teenagers and college-aged auds following its Christmas berth, while popularity for “Little Fockers” has waned. U’s latest “Fockers” installment estimated $13.8 million for the weekend, with a domestic cume so far of $124 million.

Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan,” with a total $61.5 million, continues to display muscular legs at the multiplex. Pic improved on last week’s ninth-place standing, landing in the No. 5 spot with an estimated $8.4 million from 1,584 locations. Searchlight plans to add some 500 more locations next weekend.

Meanwhile, the Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech” also gained ground outside the specialty realm, with an estimated $6.8 million from 758 locations; Stateside cume is $33.3 million.

On the international front, both “Little Fockers” and Sony’s “The Tourist” crossed the $100 million mark, with the former tallying an estimated $20 million. “The Tourist” scored an impressive $26.2 million over the weekend, just beaten out by Disney’s “Tangled,” with an estimated $26.3 million. Overseas cume for “Tangled” is $179.3 million.

Warner Bros. rolled out international territories for Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” — nearly three months after the film’s Stateside bow on Oct. 15. Pic debuted in 11 foreign territories, including Italy, Brazil and Mexico, grossing an estimated $6.9 million in what was Eastwood’s best overseas opening.

“True Grit,” helmers Joel and Ethan Coen’s best domestic performer, has yet to launch overseas. Australia is first in line on Jan. 28, followed by most other major markets throughout February.

Par vice chairman Rob Moore compared the pic’s U.S. playability to that of Warner’s “The Blind Side,” which also scored high marks in cities outside New York and L.A. Moore said “True Grit” has played consistently in Midwestern states like Minnesota and Oklahoma. But top perfs in those markets is somewhat expected, according to insiders, given the pic’s Western genre.

“The key thing with the movie is that it’s definitely starting to play younger,” Moore said.

Like fellow awards hopeful “Black Swan,” Par’s oater has started to appeal to teenage moviegoers, thanks largely to the redo’s contempo feel. The new version of “True Grit” has already become one of the highest-grossing Westerns, surpassing Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar winner “Unforgiven,” which nabbed $101 million domestically.

“Season” earned 61% of its opening from adult auds, with a fairly even male-female split. Hispanics and other minorities made up 69% of the aud. The film received a C+ CinemaScore rating.

“Season” cost an estimated $40 million, though foreign pre-sales and tax credits cover 75% of the budget, according to Relativity. Pic debuted at the low end of studio expectations.

Sony’s “Country Strong,” which landed in line with pre-weekend projections, cost an estimated $12 million, and with a more favorable B+ aud appraisal, the film could play well through the next few weeks. Its challenge now is to develop interest beyond the Midwest and South.

“The picture certainly was strongest in the heartland, but it also played well in other areas,” said Sony distrib topper Rory Bruer. “I feel like we presented the picture in the right way that benefited from not going extremely wide in the beginning.”

As expected, “Country Strong” was fueled mainly by femmes, with 73% of ticket sales.

In limited release, Weinstein Co.’s “Blue Valentine” posted a sturdy per-screen average of $17,970. TWC expanded the pic to 40 locations after last weekend’s bow at four. “Blue Valentine” earned an estimated $718,800, boosting U.S. totals to nearly $1.2 million. Sony Pictures Classics’ “Another Year,” also in its soph sesh, tallied $13,113 per-screen from seven engagements, up one from last weekend. Cume on the Mike Leigh-helmed pic is $308,245.

Gotham’s Metropolitan Opera continued its fifth season of live transmissions, screening Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West” (“La fanciulla del West”) for an estimated $1.8 million in North America. It was seen live on more than 700 screens, with an additional 450 overseas.

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