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True Grit tops US box office

January 10, 2011 15:36 IST

A scene from True GritThe commanding position True Grit -- which became the number one film in North America over the weekend -- has been occupying in recent weeks at the box office should certainly boost its chances of getting key Oscar nominations. There are hardly any Westerns made now, and yet True Grit has not only become a super hit but is also reminding older viewers of the Clint Eastwood directed 1992 Unforgiven.

Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards will be announced on January 27 with the awards to be given out a month later in Los Angeles.  

A riveting, solidly acted and visually spellbinding film, True Grit  -- with the tagline Punishment comes one way or another -- has been getting rave reviews since its limited opening three weeks ago.

The movie jumped from number two to the top of the box office over the weekend in North America, pocketing a strong $15 million, and taking its total to $110 million. The film cost just about $38 million, a medium range budget compared to films such as Tron Legacy ($170 million) and even the comedy Little Fockers ($100 million). By now, it has already recouped its investment.

True Grit focuses on an unlikely trio hunting for a hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who has murdered the father of a 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (a terrific Hailee Steinfeld).

After having persuaded a hard drinking and slothful US marshal Rooster Cogburn (a powerful Jeff Daniels) to hunt for the killer, she insists on accompanying him through the rough terrain. Joining the two is the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (an engaging Matt Damon) who wants Chaney for his own purposes.

While True Grit was creating a record in North America for a Western released in recent decades, Disney's enchanting animated family film Tangled, which has been running abroad for over seven weeks expanded to many big markets including Brazil  and Russia over the weekend, grossing $26 million.

With a solid gross of $350 million so far, Tangled -- which was in development for over a decade and at $260 million is one of the costliest films made in Hollywood -- is bound to be profitable Hollywood trade analysts believe. It is expected to gross at least $500 million worldwide. 

A scene from True GritMeanwhile, True Grit has become the first Coen brothers' film to reach $100 million benchmark in North America, and it is on its way to become their most watched film in theatres. Joel and Ethan Coen have made such enormously regarded hits as No Country for Old Men and Fargo

At its current rate of growth, True Grit could make at least $160 million in North America alone. With a handful of Oscar nominations in the coveted categories such as best picture, director and actors, it could soar even higher.

True Grit and Tangled were not the only films that made good news at the box office this weekend. Little Fockers, grossed over $33 million worldwide, and its total approaching $234 million. Many critics loathed it, calling it mirthless but audiences are having fun. Universal Pictures expects the movie to gross at least $300 million worldwide.

There was excellent news for three other films tipped to be heavy Oscar nomination contenders: Black Swan, an erotic thriller unfolding against the backdrop of ballet, and with an astounding performance by Natalie Portman to boost it, has grossed about $70 million in North America. It is on its course to reach $100 million here even if it were not to get a single Oscar nomination.

While Black Swan cost $13 million, another relatively small budget film The Fighter, a drama about family conflicts set in the world of boxing, has reached $60 million in North America. The film, which cost $20 million, is yet to open in foreign territories.

The British import The King's Speech, a stirring historical drama, is adding hundreds of theaters each week in America and worldwide as it is capturing big chunks of the box office thanks to superlative reviews and a strong word of mouth. While playing in North America and a handful of foreign territories, it has grossed over $50 million. With many territories to be conquered in the next few weeks, the film which cost $15 millions, is sure to become one of the most profitable films made last year. 

With the triumph of The King's Speech, Black Swan, The Fighter, and True Grit, not to forget the $3 million phenomenon Paranormal Activity 2 ($160 million worldwide), 2010 would be remembered for a long time as the year that saw small and medium budgets films making solid profits while many big guns like Tron Legacy had a disappointing run.

Arthur J Pais in New York