UPDATE 1-‘Fockers’ underwhelms at box office, ‘Grit’ shines

* “Little Fockers” No. 1 with soft $34 million

* Box office double for “True Grit”/”Tron” star Bridges

* “Gulliver’s Travels” new at No. 7

(new throughout with analysis and foreign sales,
awards-season contenders)

LOS ANGELES, Dec 26 (BestGrowthStock) – “Little Fockers” opened in
the top spot at the Christmas holiday weekend box office in
North America with weaker-than-expected sales while the Coen
brothers’ remake of “True Grit” started strongly at No. 2.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the comedy
sequel “Little Fockers” sold just $34 million worth of tickets
across the United States and Canada during the three days
beginning Friday.

The latest mismatch between Ben Stiller and on-screen
father-in-law Robert De Niro has earned $48.3 million since
opening on Wednesday. Domestic distributor Universal Pictures
said it had hoped for a five-day haul of about $60 million but
was confident business would pick up over the holidays.

Exactly six years ago, the first sequel “Meet the Fockers”
earned $46 million during its first weekend and $70.5 million
in its first five days. In that case, the film also opened on
Wednesday and Christmas also fell on a Saturday.

The series kicked off in October 2000, when “Meet the
Parents” opened at No. 1 with $28.6 million. It went on to make
$166 million and the first sequel ended up with $279 million.

Just 11 percent of the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes liked
the latest installment, according to the review aggregation Web
site. Audiences gave the film a modest B-minus rating,
according to exit-polling firm CinemaScore. Women accounted
for 57 percent of the audience, Universal said.

“Little Fockers” also earned about $27 million from 37
foreign markets, led by a first-place $7.3 million start in
Britain. Universal, a unit of General Electric Co’s (GE.N: ) NBC
Universal, partnered on the $100 million project with Viacom
Inc’s (VIAb.N: ) Paramount Pictures and closely held financier
Relativity Media. Paramount is handling foreign distribution.

JEFF BRIDGES SHOWS “GRIT”

The next two movies on the box-office list starred Jeff
Bridges in decidedly different roles. “True Grit,” Joel and
Ethan Coen’s update of the old John Wayne Western, opened at
No. 2 with $25.6 million for the weekend, and $36.8 million
since Wednesday. Distributor Paramount had conservatively
forecast a five-day haul of about $20 million.

The awards-season contender ranks as the Coens’ biggest
opening ever, surpassing the $19 million start for “Burn After
Reading” in 2008. But comparisons are difficult since their
films usually roll out slowly across North America. Their 2007
best-picture Oscar winner “No Country For Old Men” ended up
with $74 million after beginning its run in just 28 theaters.
“True Grit” is in 3,047 theaters.

Bridges takes over Wayne’s role as a grizzled U.S. marshal
who helps a young woman (played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld)
avenge her father’s murder. Critics loved the $38 million film
and audiences gave it a B-plus CinemaScore rating. Men
accounted for about two-thirds of the audience.

Last weekend’s champ, “Tron: Legacy,” fell to No. 3 with
$20.1 million for the weekend. The 10-day total for Walt Disney
Co’s (DIS.N: ) costly sci-fi film rose to $88.3 million. It has
also earned $65.5 million internationally after a $26.6 million
weekend in 34 markets.

Bridges reprises his role from the 1982 film “Tron” as a
videogame developer trapped trapped in a virtual environment.
The effects-laden update reportedly cost $170 million to make
and more than $100 million to market worldwide. Despite being a
public company, Disney is the only major studio never to
divulge its budgets.

The Christmas Day release “Gulliver’s Travels” entered the
chart at No. 7 with a two-day haul of $7.2 million. Jack Black
stars in the latest update of Jonathan Swift’s 18th century
satirical novel. It was released by News Corp’s (NWSA.O: ) 20th
Century Fox, which said the opening was “pretty promising.”

Among other awards-season contenders, Paramount’s “The
Fighter” fell two places to No. 6 with $8.5 million, Fox
Searchlight’s ballerina melodrama “Black Swan” slipped one to
No. 8 with $6.6 million, and the Weinstein Co’s royals drama
“The King’s Speech” rose three to No. 11 with $4.6 million.

Last weekend’s big flop, “How Do You Know” fell four places
to No. 12 with $3.7 million. The 10-day total for the Reese
Witherspoon adult comedy rose to $15.5 million, a little short
of its $100 million production tab; the film was released by
Sony Corp’s (6758.T: ) (SNE.N: ) Columbia Pictures.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Vicki Allen)

UPDATE 1-‘Fockers’ underwhelms at box office, ‘Grit’ shines