On paper, this should have been 'True Grit's' week to shine. The universally acclaimed western was supposed to outride last week's champ, the universally reviled 'Little Fockers,' toward box office victory. There were no new wide releases to steal its thunder. Predictions for 'True Grit's' second-weekend take averaged about $24.8 million, very close to what it ended up earning. Yet it still couldn't surpass 'Fockers,' which ruled for a second weekend with an estimated $26.3 million, with a much smaller-than-expected drop-off from last week. Guess there's no accounting for taste.
Given its abominable reviews and mediocre-to-poor word of mouth (not to mention it's final weekend tally last week of $30.8 million, well below Universal's initial optimistic estimate of $34.0 million), 'Fockers' was expected to fall about 24 percent this weekend to a predicted $23.4 million or so. Instead, it lost only 15 percent of last weekend's business and earned enough to cross into nine-figure territory (its two-week total is $103.2 million). Maybe it's because the comedy added 18 new screens (but then, 'True Grit' added 36), or because it pretty much has the comedy-for-grown-ups niche to itself (sorry, 'How Do You Know'), while the more violent 'True Grit' is less family-friendly and skews toward an older audience.
Still, 'True Grit' grossed an estimated $24.5 million this weekend, very much in line with expectations and down just one percent from last week's take of $24.9 million. (Like Universal, Paramount initially overestimated last week's take, though not by much, at $25.6 million.) It did enjoy a higher per-screen average than 'Fockers' ($7,947 to $7,400). The Jeff Bridges movie's two-week total stands at $86.8 million, so it's poised to become one of the highest-grossing of this year's Oscar-hopeful movies. (It won't catch up to 'Toy Story 3' or 'Inception,' but it'll surpass 'The Social Network's' $93.2 million sometime this week.)
Jeff Bridges' other movie, 'TRON: Legacy,' held on strong as well. Coming in third, it scored an estimated $18.3 million this weekend, down just four percent from last week. With a three-week total of $130.9, it has a long way to go to surpass its reported $170 million budget, but it remains the first-choice 3-D spectacle currently in theaters.
Last week, 'Yogi Bear' dropped more than 50 percent on middling word-of-mouth. It added no theaters this week, yet Warner Bros. is estimating a 66 percent increase in business, to a fourth-place finish $13.0 million. Pundits were predicting a slighter rise, to about $9 million, since more kids were out of school this week and there was no major East Coast blizzard to keep families away from the multiplexes. Either the accountants at Warners are overly optimistic, or else they're smarter than the average bear.
'Yogi's' major competition in the 3-D family-fare sweepstakes, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' earned an estimated $10.5 million this week, good for fifth place. Its studio, Fox, also predicted a modest Christmas-vacation bump in business over last week, even though the film lost nearly 600 screens this week. Still, its estimate was just a hair ahead of Disney's for 'Tangled' ($10.01 million) and Paramount's for 'The Fighter' ($10.0 million), so those films could all switch places by the time final figures are released on Monday.
The full top 10:
1. 'Little Fockers,' $26.3 million (3,554 screens), $103.2 million total
2. 'True Grit,' $24.5 million (3,083), $86.8 million
3. 'TRON: Legacy,' $18.3 million (3,365), $130.9 million
4. 'Yogi Bear,' $13.0 million (3,515), $66.1 million
5. 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' $10.5 million (2,948), $87.1 million
6. 'Tangled,' $10.01 million (2,582), $168.0 million
7. 'The Fighter,' $10.0 million (2,534), $46.4 million
8. 'Gulliver's Travels,' $9.1 million (3,089), $27.2 million
9. 'Black Swan,' $8.5 million (1,553), $47.4 million
10. 'The King's Speech,' $7.6 million (700), $22.8 million
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.