‘No Strings Attached’ Looks to Top Weekend!

Audiences are likely to make a date with Paramount’s romantic comedy No Strings Attached starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman this weekend with gross in the $20 to $25 million range.  Romantic comedies released in January since 2005 have opened in the range of $12.3 million (“When in Rome”) to $23 million (27 Dresses).  Of course Portman is red hot right now with Black Swan dancing its way toward $100 million at the box office and her Golden Globe win for best actress last weekend adding even more heat to the actresses appeal and star power.  An R-rating and a solid marketing campaign which clearly asks the question “Can best friends, be sex friends?” should prove to be catnip for the date crowd and those looking for a “girl’s night out” type of movie-going experience.  

Second place is reserved for Sony’s The Green Hornet which had a solid $33.5 million debut over the Martin Luther King Weekend.  The action-comedy hybrid should hold well given the lack of competition in the action realm and a marketplace full of Oscar contenders and likely post a gross in the high teens and a total cumulative pushing $70 million by the end of the weekend.

Third, fourth and fifth place could prove to be a bit of a toss-up with Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan, Universal’s The Dilemma, Paramount’s True Grit and Weinstein Co.’s The King’s Speech all vying for their spot in the line-up.  A likely scenario could find both Black Swan and The King’s Speech benefiting from Golden Globes attention (including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth in Speech) and the potential for their weekend over weekend percentage changes to be modest culminating with grosses in the $7 million to $8 million range.  Ron Howard’s The Dilemma which opened with $17.8 million over Martin Luther King weekend may have the edge for a third place finish that even with a 50% drop would still put it at around $8.5 million. 

No discussion of the top 5 could ignore that True Grit has been generating great buzz from the start, is currently the second highest grossing western of all-time (behind only 1990’s “Dances With Wolves” at $184.2 million) and despite a solid snubbing at The Golden Globes, the film remains an audience favorite.  The Coen Brother’s epic will likely cross the $140 million mark by Sunday night with a gross in the $7 million to $8 million sweet spot that seemingly every other film is pursuing.

On the downside is the potential for the 11th consecutive “down” weekend vs. last year with the ghost of Avatar looming large and making comparisons tough as studio executives and box office bean counters suffer from collective indigestion.