A few days ago someone inserted an idea that The Fighter‘s Best Picture headwind has somehow diminished because it hasn’t done True Grit-level business. Okay, it hasn’t astonished. But since opening wide on 12.17 on roughly 2500 theatres, David O. Russell‘s film had made about $34 million as of 12.29, and boxoffice.com‘s Phil Contrino is projecting $44 million by Sunday evening.

“So I’d say it’s performing on track,” Contrino said this morning. “If anything, it might be getting hurt by how well True Grit is doing.”

Do you think it’s doing well in terms of per-screen average? Where do you see it ending up? Are others wrong in saying that it’s under-performing?

The Fighter‘s per-screen average is fine,” he repeated, “considering that it has to compete with True Grit, which is getting the steak-eaters, Black Swan and its under-35 females, and The King’s Speech apparent hold over the older, traditional-minded conservative types. It looks like it could hit $55 to $60 million all in.

“People panic when a film doesn’t break records during its opening weekend, but we still live in a world where great flicks can hang around in theaters for a while based on positive word-of-mouth. The Fighter will earn its money in slow-burn fashion.

But The Fighter isn’t a pretty good movie — it’s real, it’s exceptional, it has great performances, it’s about families and drug addiction, etc. Why are people more eager to see bearded Jeff Bridges draw his big ole six-shooter and stumble around and go “arrhhrrg-gaahhrrg” that watch Wahlberg, Bale, Adams and Leo mix it up in real-deal Lowell? I mean, a movie like The Fighter should be looking at a higher overall take, no? More like $70 or $80 million?

“The problem is competition, not the quality of the film,” he replied. “Take True Grit and Black Swan out of the equation and it would easily hit $70 to $80 million.”

What demographic is The Fighter not reaching out to or doing as well as it should with? Older women? I’ve read that some over-35 females feel that The Fighter portrays working-class women (i.e., Melissa Leo and the seven sisters) with too crude and coarse a brush. Is that the issue?