Julia Roberts' box-office power in question

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Julia Roberts Earned $3M For Four Days of Work

For more than a decade, Julia Roberts was box-office gold, becoming the world's biggest actress and the first female to command a $20 million salary for her Oscar-winning performance in Erin Brockovich, released in 2000.

Roberts -; who starred in 17 movies in the 1990s, including classic rom-coms Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and Notting Hill -; was so powerful she saw her paycheck upped to $25 million for the 2003 drama, Mona Lisa Smile. (After Mona Lisa Smile, she started making fewer films as she focused on raising a family.)

Fast-forward to present day when Roberts' box-office pull is in question, much like several of her male contemporaries, including Johnny Depp and Will Smith. In the U.S., a major movie star is no longer a guarantee that audiences will show up. The actress, 48, has suffered a string of misses since her last two hits, Eat Pray Love and Valentine's Day, both released in 2010.

See photos of Roberts through the years:

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Julia Roberts' box-office power in question
Betty Lou Bredemus and Julia Roberts during 'Benny & Joon' Los Angeles Premiere in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by S. Granitz/WireImage)
Julia Roberts (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Julia Roberts arrives at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JULY 01: Julia Roberts and her mother Betty Motes (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Betty Lou Bredemus and Julia Roberts during 'Benny & Joon' Los Angeles Premiere in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by S. Granitz/WireImage)
Julia Roberts (Photo by S. Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 4: Actor Eric Roberts, actress Julia Roberts and their sister Lisa Roberts and actor Jon Voight attend the 'Runaway Train' Premiere Party on December 4, 1985 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, and Richard Grieco during NATO Showest annual theatre owners convention at Ballys Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 7: Actress Julia Roberts attends the 27th Annual People's Choice Awards on January 7, 2001 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
383845 01: Actors Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts act in a scene in Dream Works Pictures 'The Mexican'. (Photo by Merrick Morton/Dreamworks/Newsmakers)
Actress Julia Roberts, winner 'Best Actress' for 'Erin Brockovich' with Richard LaGravenese & Steven Soderbergh winner 'Best Director', at the National Board of Review awards dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York City. 01/16/2001. Photo: Evan Agostini
UNITED STATES - APRIL 19: Julia Roberts arrives at Cipriani 23rd St. restaurant for an after-party following her Broadway debut in 'Three Days of Rain.' (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
PARIS - MARCH 12: Actor Clive Owen, Actress Julia Roberts and Director Tony Gilroy attend 'Duplicity' Paris Premiere on March 10, 2009 in Paris, France (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)
LONDON - MARCH 10: Actress Julia Roberts attends the Duplicity film premiere held at the Empire Leicester Square on March 10, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)
NEW YORK - MARCH 16: Julia Roberts attends the premiere of 'Duplicity' at the Ziegfeld Theater on March 16, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 07: ***EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*** Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman pose backstage at LAByrinth Theater Company's 6th Annual Gala Benefit at St. Paul The Apostle Church on December 7, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
US cinema actress Julia Roberts arrives on set in the village of Mirzapur, some 60 kms from New Delhi on September 27, 2009. Roberts arrived in India September 18, where she is shooting scenes for her forthcoming film 'Eat, Pray, Love'. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 08: Actress Julia Roberts and Emma Roberts attends the 'Valentine's Day' Los Angeles Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 8, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
CANCUN, MEXICO - JUNE 29: Julia Roberts poses for a photo during a portrait session at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cancun, Mexico on June 29, 2010. (Photo by Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images) Reproduction by American tabloids is absolutely forbidden.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 17: Actress Julia Roberts arrives at the 10th Annual GLSEN Respect Awards at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on October 17, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Actress Julia Roberts arrives for the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, January 25, 2015 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actress Julia Roberts attends the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last fall, The Secret in Their Eyes, a tough thriller about a woman (Roberts) who seeks revenge for the death of her daughter, opened nationwide to $6.7 million, one of the lowest nationwide starts of her career. The movie, co-starring Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor, was small in scope, to be sure, costing $19.5 million to make, but topped out a disappointing $20.2 million nationwide.

"Nowadays, female leads are usually plucked to be posterized if they're of the comedic variety, not necessarily for their acting prowess. Julia Roberts was one of the last true actresses that earned her name above the title of a film with acting alone. That's how big her draw was. What happened? Well, since Eat Pray Love in 2010, she hasn't really done anything that's connected with audiences or the zeitgeist of the times," says box-office analyst Jeff Bock.

"Still, she had a decade long stretch from 1990-2000 that really is unmatched by an actress in terms of box office, which is why I think studios are still interested in casting her in hopes of catching just one more glimpse of the iconic mannerisms -; the trademark laugh and smile -; that catapulted her to $100 million-plus hit after $100 million-plus hit," Bock continued.

Indeed, Roberts still lands her share of roles. On Thursday, she was cast as Room star Jacob Tremblay's mother in the Lionsgate drama Wonder.

Read More Julia Roberts to Play Jacob Tremblay's Mother in 'Wonder'

Over the April 29-30 weekend, Mother's Day, debuted to $8.4 million domestically -; 85 percent behind Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day, which opened to $56.2 million in 2010. Roberts was one of the ensemble leads in both movies. In Mother's Day, she stars alongside Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis.

Insiders close to Roberts note she made the two movies as a favor to Marshall, who directed her breakout movie Pretty Woman, and that neither were strategic career choices. Plus, they were ensemble titles.

Read More 'Mother's Day': Read Critics' (Mostly Scathing) Reviews

Other recent films featuring Roberts that failed to resonate at the U.S. box office in a meaningful way include Snow White movie Mirror Mirror (2012) and Larry Crowne (2011), co-starring Tom Hanks.

Roberts' next test is director Jodie Foster's Money Monster, reuniting the actress with her Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve co-star George Clooney (it's likewise a box-office test for him).

Money Monster makes its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next week before Sony opens the financial thriller in U.S. theaters on May 13. In the film, Clooney stars as a financial TV personality who is taken hostage on air by an unhappy viewer; Roberts plays the producer of the show.

Money Monster will also make a major push overseas, where movie stars still have more clout. Mirror Mirror, for example, earned $118.1 million overseas, compared to $64.9 million domestically, not accounting for inflation.

Read More 'Money Monster' Trailer: George Clooney, Julia Roberts Take On Active Shooter, Wall Street

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