Natalie Portman's 'No Strings Attached' Goes Up Against 'Green Hornet' at the Box Office

"No Strings Attached"

The question will be if Seth Rogen's latest superhero drama can top the actress' new comedy with Ashton Kutcher in its second week.

Natalie Portman goes up against herself this weekend when Paramount opens Ivan Reitman’s R-rated romantic romp No Strings Attached in 3,018 theaters at the domestic box office.

Neither Paramount nor Fox Searchlight could have predicted that Portman starrer Black Swan would still be going strong when No Strings Attached — also starring Ashton Kutcher — hit theaters. Last weekend, Portman won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama for Searchlight’s Swan, which could give that movie a bump.

No Strings Attached, which explores whether casual sex can actually stay casual, is the only new film opening nationwide this weekend. Tracking is great among younger women and older female teens.

Paramount expects the film to open in the mid- to high teens, in line with other R-rated romantic comedies.

Newmarket and Wrekin Hill Entertainment are taking a more limited approach with Peter Weir’s The Way Back, which opens in 650 theaters. The World War II drama is the Australian filmmaker’s first film in almost a decade.

The Weinstein Co. launches John WellsThe Company Men in 106 theaters, exactly one year after the film made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Originally, the Weinstein Co. was going to open Company Men in time for awards consideration, but it pushed back the release.

Overall, it’s going to be another down weekend at the domestic box office. Once a movie graveyard, January turned in strong performances the past several years, and especially last year with Avatar. January 2011 is a return to less prosperous times.

The one exception is awards fare like Black Swan and the Weinstein Co.’s The King’s Speech, both of which have overperformed. Swan’s cume through Wednesday was $76.6 million, while King’s Speech stood at $48.6 million. Like Swan, King’s Speech scored a top Globe acting award (for Colin Firth).

No Strings Attached was produced for a modest $25 million, so Paramount doesn’t need a huge opening weekend. From a script by Elizabeth Meriwether, the film tells the story of lifelong friends who end up becoming casual sex buddies.

The big question is whether Sony holdover The Green Hornet can beat No Strings Attached in its second weekend. Last weekend, Hornet debuted to $33.5 million for the three-day weekend and $40 million for the four-day holiday frame.

Weir’s Way Back is his first movie since Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in 2003. Way Back stars Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris as prisoners of war who escape a gulag in Siberia.

Company Men, about corporate downsizing, is even more star-packed. The cast is led by Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones. Company Men marks Wells’ feature directorial debut.