Box Office: Anthony Hopkins has ‘The Rite’ stuff for no. 1 Friday

Winter weather in the Northeast may affect the overall box office numbers this weekend, but it wasn’t enough to exorcise Anthony Hopkins’ return to the box office Friday.  The legendary actor’s devilishly themed new drama “The Rite” debuted to $5.3 million for what should be a $15 million weekend.  That’s a bit below pre-release polling, but again, it appears the snow-socked East coast haven’t returned to their regular moviegoing habits as of yet.

In second place was Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher’s “No Strings Attached.”  Last weekend’s no. 1 film found $4.4 million Friday for a new eight day total of $30.4 million.  There’s a slight chance it could retain the weekend top spot if it pulls ahead of “Rite” today.

CBS Films’ “The Mechanic” drove into third with $3.6 million and the Jason Statham and Ben Foster action flick should hit at least $10 million for the weekend.  The CBS division only paid $5 million for U.S. rights and projects profitability at $20-25 million domestic.  Still, CBS is well aware they need a breakout hit to be taken more seriously as a long term player by agents, directors, producers and competitors alike (and possibly get the media off their back).  Their next shot is “Beastly” on March 4.

Oscar nominee champ “The King’s Speech” was battling “The Green Hornet” for the fourth slot.  Landing 12 Academy Awards nominations, “Speech” had a 31% bump from last weekend to $2.8 million while “Hornet” eeked just ahead at $2.9 million.  To date, “Speech” has $63.9 million. Seth Rogen’s “Hornet,” on the other hand, has made $70.2 million as it valiantly tries to get to $100 million (which probably isn’t going to happen).

Other notable numbers included only a 9% drop for “True Grit” which has now grossed an amazing $142.7 million, “Black Swan” has danced to $87 million, “The Fighter”  is still in the ring at $75.3 million and “127 Hours” expanded to its widest release so far to 916 theaters and hit the $12 million mark.

Look for updated weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.