Third time was the charm for 'True Grit.' In its third matchup against 'Little Fockers,' the Western finally came out on top. According to studio estimates, 'True Grit' won the weekend with ticket sales of $15 million, while 'Little Fockers' was not far behind with $13.8 million.
As was widely predicted, the two movies that had dominated the box office since before Christmas ran nose-to-nose in close competition, while this week's newer wide releases -- Nicolas Cage's 'Season of the Witch' and Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Country Strong' -- would have to settle for also-ran status.
Last week, with the holiday season not yet wrapped up and family audiences still filling the multiplexes, the more family-friendly 'Fockers' was the stronger contender. This week, however, it was the violent Jeff Bridges Western, with its stronger word-of-mouth, that won the weekdays, and that streak continued into the weekend. 'True Grit' fell just 39 percent from last weekend, compared to 46 percent for 'Fockers.' Its three-week total stands at $110.4 million, making it the highest-grossing of the fall/winter Oscar contenders. It still hasn't earned as much as 'Fockers,' however, which, over the same three weeks, has taken in $124.0 million.
The week's only brand-new wide release, 'Season of the Witch,' earned an estimated $10.7 million, good for a third-place debut. The medieval thriller grossed about a million more than pundits had predicted, perhaps because it had no new films in the action space to compete against, or because it had so little advance buzz that people went to see it before the withering reviews were out.
In fourth place, 'TRON: Legacy' fell another 48 percent, with an estimated $9.8 million take. In four weeks, it's scored $147.9 million, still below its estimated $170 million production budget.
At No. 5 was Black Swan,' which slipped just 6 percent to an estimated $8.4 million. The much-talked-about Natalie Portman ballet drama has earned $61.5 million to date, more than director Darren Aronofsky's first four movies combined.
'Country Strong,' which opened wide after two weeks in limited release, came in sixth, with an estimated $7.3 million. That figure was in line with predictions for the Paltrow drama, which, according to studio exit polling, had little appeal to men and only moderate appeal to younger audiences.
The full top 10:
1. 'True Grit,' $15.0 million (3,124 screens), $110.4 million total
2. 'Little Fockers,' $13.8 million (3,675), $124.0 million
3. 'Season of the Witch,' $10.7 million (2,816), new release
4. 'TRON: Legacy,' $9.8 million (3,013), $147.9 million
5. 'Black Swan,' $8.4 million (1,584), $61.5 million
6. 'Country Strong,' $7.3 million (1,424), $7.4 million
7. 'The Fighter,' $7.0 million (2,528), $57.8 million
8. 'The King's Speech,' $6.811 million (758), $33.3 million
9. 'Yogi Bear,' $6.810 million (3,288), $75.6 million
10. 'Tangled,' $5.2 million (2,383), $175.9 million
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.