Anthony Hopkins led the North American box office yesterday with the exorcism thriller “The Rite,” while newly minted Oscar nominees such as front-runner “The King’s Speech” enjoyed a boost in business.

“The Rite” sold about $15 million worth of tickets in the three days since it opened across the United States and Canada on Friday, distributor Warner Bros. said.

Even though critics lambasted the movie, the opening was within the Time Warner Inc. unit’s expectations. The film cost about $40 million to make.

Also new was a remake of the assassination thriller “The Mechanic,” starring English action hero Jason Statham — which tied at No. 3 with former box office champion “The Green Hornet,” each reporting about $11.5 million.

Last weekend’s champ, the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy “No Strings Attached,” slipped to No. 2 with $13.7 million, taking its 10-day total to $39.7 million.

“The King’s Speech,” which received 12 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, saw a 41 percent boost from last weekend, grossing $11.1 million.

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