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Box office preview: 'No Strings Attached' tries to get around

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Image Credit: Dale RobinetteWith only one new wide release hitting theaters, the box office looks destined to trail the prior year for the 10th weekend in a row. No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy starring recent Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, should win the frame, though it’ll face some stiff competition from last week’s victor, The Green Hornet. Other than for those two films, many multiplex auditoriums may be eerily empty this weekend. If you haven’t seen Oscar hopefuls True Grit, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan yet, this would be a great time to catch up before the Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday. My weekend predictions:

1. No Strings Attached: $20 million

It’s nice to see that Nina Sayers has overcome her timid sexuality and already acquired a “friend with benefits.” In this $25 million comedy, directed by Ivan Reitman, Portman and Kutcher play two lifelong friends who attempt to add sex to the relationship without falling in love with one another. The R-rated film is tracking particularly well with 17 to 24-year-old women — an audience segment that hasn’t had much thrown its way of late. And Portman, who just won a Golden Globe for her virtuoso performance in Black Swan, is at the peak of her public awareness.

2. The Green Hornet: $18 million

Last week, The Green Hornet proved a superhero movie could open big in January. Now, can it survive? With a “B+” rating from CinemaScore audiences, it’s a well-liked movie, but not a particularly beloved one either. Superhero flicks can be particularly prone to steep second-week drops, but with little else out there grabbing the attention of young males, Hornet should find a way to slip less than 50 percent from its three-day opening gross of $33.5 million.

3. The Dilemma: $9 million

Last weekend, this $70 million Ron Howard comedy garnered Vince Vaughn’s worst major opening since 2003’s Old School. CinemaScore moviegoers handed it a “B” grade, so those who saw it were pleased for the most part. Still, No Strings Attached will steal a significant portion of The Dilemma‘s audience. Expect a decline of about 50 percent.

4. True Grit: $8 million

What’s left to say about the Coen brothers’ surprise hit Western? The movie has yet to drop more than 40 percent in one week, and this weekend should be no different. A slide of around 30 percent would add another $8 million to True Grit‘s bounty, bringing its cumulative tally to just under $140 million.

5. The King’s Speech: $7 million

The R-rated historical drama doubled its theaters last weekend and performed even better than expected. With a Golden Globe Best Actor win for Colin Firth and plenty of Oscar buzz, The King’s Speech should stay around in the top five with a mild stutter of about 25 percent.

Also opening this weekend, in 650 theaters, is the Peter Weir war drama The Way Back, which stars Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Colin Farrell. And the corporate-downsizing drama The Company Men, with Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Tommy Lee Jones, will clock in at 106 locations.