SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: The big news this weekend wasn’t just seeing whether domestic grosses were depressed on the post-blizzard East Coast (they weren’t), but also which movies received Oscar bumps given that the Academy Award nominations were announced this past Tuesday (all of them still in theaters). Some like The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Blue Valentine (because of Michelle Williams’ Best Actress nom), and Rabbit Hole (due to Nicole Kidman’s), all expanded their runs. True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, are still in the thick of their releases and held very well, including Golden Globe Best Drama winner The Social Network in limited release for a return engagement to improve on its $96M domestic cume. (But King’s Speech attendance could soar if The Weinstein Co succeeds in creating a PG-13 version for exhibitors and educators who want the R-rated movie available to a bigger audience.)

As for this weekend’s newcomers, studios hoped that house-bound blizzard victims would dig out and go to the movies on this football-less Sunday. Warner Bros’ exorcism genre pic The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins and playing in 2,985 theaters came in #1 with approximately $15 million. CBS Films released hit man flick The Mechanic with 2,703 runs for #3 Friday. But the Jason Statham starrer fell to 4th Sunday with $11.5M. CBS Films paid $5M for the distribution rights and the pic supposedly will be in profit if its domestic run gets to the mid-$20sM. “It’s coming in where we expected,” one insider tells me. “I’d rather our bottom line than The Rite‘s any day of the week.” (Snap!) I’ve been hearing a “reconfiguring” is coming to the still struggling movie unit. CBS Films will make more acquisitions to fill the pipeline. It needs to find a big fat hit fast. Even CBS Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson took cheap shots at CBS Films Friday night.

Last week’s #1 film, Paramount’s R-rated rom-com No Strings Attached, had an excellent -32% hold from the previous weekend. Anyway, here’s the Top 10:

1. The Rite (New Line/Warner Bros) NEW [2,985 Theaters]
Friday $5.3M, Saturday $6.2M, Weekend $15M

Tracking had been strong but the studio had expected a gross in the $17M-19M range. CinemaScore was a “B”. The audience equally divided between males and females, with 64% over the age of 25. The studio used Anthony Hopkins’ pedigree to pursue an older target for the film. To appeal to younger moviegoers, it exploited the intensity of the exorcism moments and the premise of the unknown in the marketing materials. Interestingly, as Warner Bros was developing the campaign, the topic of exorcists became a current news event with the recent increase in the Catholic Church’s recruitment and training of exorcists to fill what they characterized as an alarmingly growing need. This news got coverage, resulting in a high profile OP Ed piece in the New York Times. We bolstered that piece, and used a quote from it in the main trailer and in several TV spots, a very unusual tool that anchored our disturbing, effective premise that the film is “based on true events”.

Hopkins’ pedigree is the core of the campaign, and he has done a very heavy press schedule on everything from Regis to Charlie Rose, and morning shows to late night. Additionally, we launched a significant Hispanic marketing campaign, through publicity, grass roots activity and a heavy media buy.

We also developed the faith angle through an extensive program with our consultants at Grace Hill Media. The outreach included drafting off of the topical conversation that was already happening within the church and allowing that to give the film a level of credibility. Father Gary Thomas participated in a number of interviews for us including an LA Times piece and a segment on Nightline that aired the Thursday before we opened. While this is a difficult segment to pinpoint in the tracking, the message of the film clearly has relevance for that audience and we feel that we captured their interest.

The campaign kicked off with trailers on Hereafter, Saw VII and movies throughout the holiday season to target both younger & older moviegoers. We built a mix of broad commercial films & older, more sophisticated awards films to get the right exposure.

We also ran a heavy TV schedule on everything from BCS College football games to NFL playoffs, and broad multi-targeted programming.

In terms of tracking, The Rite shows a pretty well-balanced balanced awareness and interest profile. The younger audiences will tend to gravitate to the suspense-thriller genre, while older audiences are likely to be drawn to the genre plus Anthony Hopkins appearing in his first starring role in quite some time. Notably, there were aggressive efforts in the last week towards Latino moviegoers, which could generate some upside to the film’s opening weekend prospects as they tend to represent early boxoffice attendees.

As the campaign evolved, the nature of the story (centering around faith and belief) & the pedigree of Hopkins naturally led us to pursue an older target for the film. But we also wanted to appeal to younger moviegoers, so we exploited the intensity of the exorcism moments and the premise of the unknown in our marketing materials. Interestingly, as we were developing the campaign, the topic of exorcists became a current news event with the recent increase in the Catholic Church’s recruitment and training of exorcists to fill what they characterized as an alarmingly growing need. This news got coverage, resulting in a high profile OP Ed piece in the New York Times. We bolstered that piece, and used a quote from it in the main trailer and in several TV spots, a very unusual tool that anchored our disturbing, effective premise that the film is “based on true events”.

Hopkins’ pedigree is the core of the campaign, and he has done a very heavy press schedule on everything from Regis to Charlie Rose, and morning shows to late night. Additionally, we launched a significant Hispanic marketing campaign, through publicity, grass roots activity and a heavy media buy.

We also developed the faith angle through an extensive program with our consultants at Grace Hill Media. The outreach included drafting off of the topical conversation that was already happening within the church and allowing that to give the film a level of credibility. Father Gary Thomas participated in a number of interviews for us including an LA Times piece and a segment on Nightline that aired the Thursday before we opened. While this is a difficult segment to pinpoint in the tracking, the message of the film clearly has relevance for that audience and we feel that we captured their interest.

The campaign kicked off with trailers on Hereafter, Saw VII and movies throughout the holiday season to target both younger & older moviegoers. We built a mix of broad commercial films & older, more sophisticated awards films to get the right exposure.

We also ran a heavy TV schedule on everything from BCS College football games to NFL playoffs, and broad multi-targeted programming.

In terms of tracking, The Rite shows a pretty well-balanced balanced awareness and interest profile. The younger audiences will tend to gravitate to the suspense-thriller genre, while older audiences are likely to be drawn to the genre plus Anthony Hopkins appearing in his first starring role in quite some time. Notably, there were aggressive efforts in the last week towards Latino moviegoers, which could generate some upside to the film’s opening weekend prospects as they tend to represent early boxoffice attendees.

2. No Strings Attached (Paramount) Week 2 [3,022 Theaters]
Friday $4.3M, Saturday $5.7M, Weekend $13.6M (-31%),  Cume $39.7M.
3. The Green Hornet 3D (Sony) Week 3 [3,022 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $5.4M, Weekend $11.5M, Cume $78.8M
4. The Mechanic (CBS Films) NEW [2,703 Theaters]
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $11.5M
5. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co) Week 10 [2,557 Theaters]
Friday $2.8M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $11.1M, Cume $72.2M
6. True Grit (Paramount) Week 6 [3,120 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $7.6M, Cume $148.3M
7. The Dilemma (Universal) Week 3 [2,901 Theaters]
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $5.4M, Cume $40.6M
8. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Week 9 [2,315 Theaters]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.1M, Cume $90.7M
9. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 8 [1,914 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $2M, Weekend $4M, Cume $78.3M
10. Yogi Bear 3D (Warner Bros) Week 7 [2,133 Theaters]
Friday $570K, Estimated Weekend $3.1M, Cume $92.5M

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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