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Anthony Hopkins Takes `The Rite' to Top of Box Office

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Jan. 26, 2011: From left, cast members Marija Karan, Anthony Hopkins, Marta Gastini, Alice Braga, and Colin O'Donoghue pose together at the premiere of "The Rite" in Los Angeles. (AP)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Anthony Hopkins horror film "The Rite" topped the box office on a weekend notable for the bump many Oscar-nominated films received, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Warner Bros. flick earned $15 million from just under 3,000 theaters. The PG-13, "Exorcist"-influenced movie drew most of its audience from the older-than-25 demographic.

In its 10th week of release, the Weinstein Company's "The King's Speech" earned $11.1 million while adding nearly 900 screens.

Now with a cumulative box-office haul of $72.2 million, the story of King George VI's triumph over his stuttering affliction continues to build momentum as the Oscar favorite for best picture. It led with 12 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, and its director, Tom Hooper, won best director from the Directors Guild on Saturday.

Last week's top film, the Natalie Portman romantic comedy "No Strings Attached," from Paramount, slipped to second with $13.7 million.

The other debut this weekend, CBS Films' action film "The Mechanic," which stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster, took in $11.5 million, tied for third with Sony's updated superhero film "The Green Hornet."

Heavily marketed, "The Rite" sought a PG-13 rating less to attract younger audience members than "not to offend" older fans of the 73-year-old Hopkins, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros.

Fellman credited the film's success to Hopkins, who remains a draw for moviegoers, especially in scary films that recall his famous performance as Hannibal Lecter in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs."

"The King's Speech" saw the biggest increase after Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, jumping 41 percent from its performance last weekend.

The Coen brothers' Western "True Grit" was up four percent in its sixth week, bringing its total to $138 million. "The Fighter," in its eighth week, and Portman's "Black Swan," in its ninth week, had only slight drop-offs from the prior weekend.

Still, it was hard to ignore the rising tide of "The King's Speech," which has usurped David Fincher's "The Social Network" as prognosticators' pick to win best picture at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27. Its star, Colin Firth, is believed to be a shoo-in for best actor.

"If I was in Vegas, I'd slip a few bucks on it," said Fellman of "The King's Speech." (Warner Bros.'s dog in the fight is Christopher Nolan's "Inception," whose chances for best picture are considered slim.)

The Screen Actors Guild, whose members make up a large block of academy voters, was to hand out their awards Sunday night.

"The Oscar bump is in full effect," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

But the box-office opportunity for Academy Awards favorites is available partially because of the lack of blockbuster dominance in the marketplace. The weekend was Hollywood's 12th down-weekend in a row, meaning total box office was below that of the corresponding weekend a year earlier.

Last year's high January totals were largely due to the enormous success of James Cameron's 3-D epic "Avatar," which went on to become the highest grossing film ever.

"`Avatar' is casting a long shadow, making our comparisons week after week very tough," said Dergarabedian. "It's an anomaly. ... The marketplace is kind of doing what it's supposed to be doing."

Dergarabedian says the streak of down-weekends is likely to continue, possibly passing the 2005 record of 18 consecutive down-weekends.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Rite," $15 million.

2. "No Strings Attached," $13.7 million.

3. "The Green Hornet," $11.5 million.

(tie) "The Mechanic, $11.5 million.

5. "The King's Speech," $11.1 million.

6. "True Grit," $7.6 million.

7. "The Dilemma," $5.5 million.

8. "Black Swan," $5.1 million.

9. "The Fighter," $4.1 million.

10. "Yogi Bear," $3.2 million.

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