The romantic pairing of Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman produced results at the domestic box office this weekend, with Paramount's Ivan Reitman-directed "No Strings Attached" grossing an estimated $20.3 million, according to studio data.
The $25 million romantic comedy came in with soft reviews (under 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), an R rating and a string of rom-com flops before it.
But the film lived up to its robust tracking, with women under 25 — 57 percent of whom marked the movie their "first choice" in pre-release tracking-firm surveys — flocking to see it.
Last weekend's box-office champ, "The Green Hornet," also had a strong second weekend, grossing an estimated $18.1 million and dropping only around 45 percent week-to-week. It's domestic total has reached $63.4 million on a $130 million production spend.
In third place, Universal ensemble comedy "The Dilemma" dropped only 45 percent in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $9.7 million and bringing its domestic total to $33.4 million on a $70 million production budget.
As for "No Strings," Paramount executives dismissed loopy assertions by rival news sites that the studio was worried that it had a bomb coming into the weekend.
"It was always expected to do at least in the mid-teens — around $17 million or $18 million. The hope was that we could get it to $20 million," said Don Harris, general manager of distribution for Paramount.
And true, a, er, string of recent romantic comedies had failed to open to $20 million recently, including Kutcher's "Killers" (which started out to $15.8 million last June).
But at $25 million to produce, Paramount had little to sweat over — especially since it had co-financing partners in Spyglass Entertainment and Cold Springs. Montecito Pictures co-produced the film, along with Paramount.
The movie garnered an audience that was 70 percent female, and 60 percent age 25 or younger.
Overall, moviegoers gave "No Strings Attached" a "B" Cinemascore, but the grade shot up to an A-minus for viewers 25 and under.
So did Portman's Golden Globe win for best dramatic actress in "Black Swan" give "No Strings" a boost?
Maybe a little, Harris noted.
Overall, however, it's tough to say the Globes really helped anyone this weekend, with both "Black Swan" (down about 27 percent from last weekend to $6.2 million) and best actor-winner Colin Firth's "The King's Speech" (off 12 percent to $9.2 million) doing well, but not neccesarily growing their audiences.
Sony's "The Social Network," which won four Golden Globes, including the top best dramatic film prize, did gross around $475,000 playing at several hundred theaters, which is considerable for a film that's been out in theaters since October.
While "No Strings" was the only big wide-opening movie over the weekend, there were several limited debuts.
The Weinstein Company's "Company Men" grossed $767,328 at 106 theaters for a soft per-screen average of $7,238 per engagement.
The solidly reviewed film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner, and was directed by John Wells
And Newmarket's Peter Weir-directed, Soviet gulag-themed "The Way Back" grossed $1.3 million at 671 locations.
Here's how the top 10 finished:
"No Strings Attached" ($20.4m)
"The Green Hornet" ($18.1m)
"The Dilemma" ($9.7m)
"The King's Speech" ($9.2m)
"True Grit" ($7.6m)
"Black Swan" ($6.2m)
"The Fighter" ($4.5m)
"Little Fockers" ($4.4m)
"Yogi Bear" ($4.1m)
"Tron Legacy" ($3.7m)