What 'True Grit' Has in Common With 'The Blind Side'

5:56 PM PST 01/09/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Wilson Webb/Paramount Pictures

After a slow start, the Coen brothers' Oscar contender is gaining traction at the box office.

True Grit and The Blind Side make for unlikely bedfellows, but they share a common attribute -- they started off slow before turning into steady box-office campfires.

Both films didn't come in No. 1 at the box office until their third frame, an unusual feat.

Over the weekend, Paramount and Skydance Prods.' True Grit bumped Universal's Little Fockers from the top spot at the domestic box office, grossing an estimated $15 million from 3,124 theaters.

True Grit's cume through Sunday was $110.4 million, making it one of the top-grossing Westerns of all time, and there's no sign of it slowing down. Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar winner Unforgiven grossed $101.2 million. The top Western is Dances With Wolves, which grossed roughly $184 million domestically.

But those aren't the stats that Paramount is focusing on at the moment.

Rather, it's that more and more young people are coming to see True Grit, directed by the Coen brothers. Just as key, the film's reach has extended beyond the biggest cities to other markets.

True Grit was initially fueled by older moviegoers. On opening weekend, as much as 70 percent of the audience was over age 30. That gap has now narrowed to 60 percent or less.

Notably, younger moviegoers gave the film an A- CinemaScore, a grade which usually sparks particularly strong word-of-mouth. The film's overall CinemaScore is B+.

One reason that Paramount knows True Grit is luring younger eyeballs is because of busy 9 p.m. shows. (Older moviegoers usually opt for earlier viewings.)

In terms of its geographical profile, True Grit also has broadened out beyond the biggest markets, such as L.A., New York, Boston and Chicago. Over the weekend, the top 10 performing locales included Albuquerque, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City.

"When you have a movie that feels fresh, this is what can happen," Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said. "The audience broadens, and the film starts playing well in more and more places."

True Grit doesn't begin its international run until later this month. While Westerns can have a tough time at the foreign box office, Joel and Ethan Coen have an avid following internationally.

Paramount and Skydance are co-financing partners on True Grit. It's the first film from Skydance, which was founded by David Ellison. The movie cost about $38 million to produce. 

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