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Weekend Box Office: The Social Network Clicks to Top

by Anthony D'Alessandro
October 3, 2010 4:17 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

The most buzzed-about launch of the fall season, The Social Network met (but did not exceed) expectations with a $23-million start, while hard-R vampire thriller Let Me In proved to be a classic tweener: too bloody violent for upscale smart-house crowds and too European for mainstream gore-hounds. Anthony D'Alessandro explains:


Sony’s PG-13 Facebook origin myth The Social Network effortlessly clicked its way to the top box office spot with $23 million – a number which was in line with studio estimates, but fell short of crashing any ticket booth’s computer with a fall record.  Two R-rated thrillers, Overture’s vampire remake Let Me In and Paramount’s Renee Zellweger-Bradley Cooper vehicle Case 39, each cannibalized their target femme demo, tying with $5.3 million apiece.

The weekend's second place is a photo finish as matinees pushed Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole to a fabulous hold, outpegging adult titles Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Town with a 33% dip.

For a fall drama starring a string of fresh faces, Social Network is off to a solid start. As award season gets underway, strong buzz off Sony’s keen viral marketing campaign should continue to boost traffic for Social Network. The Relativity Media co-financed feature will likely profit off its less-than $40-million budget. Females dominated playdates with 53%; 55% were over 25.  Overall Cinemascore was B+, with 18 and under giving it an A-.

If Social Network’s opening seems lackluster, it’s due to media over-hype. Seven of the film’s top ten theaters Friday were in New York and L.A., which indicates that Social Network performed best in coastal metropolitan areas as opposed to middle America.  Contrary to B.O. pundit estimates, Social Network did not slot as director David Fincher’s highest three-day bow--which remains The Panic Room at $30.1 million (Social Network ranks third for him).  In a move to reach the widest, hippest youth demo possible, Sony attached emotional, sexy Social Network trailers to first-weekend showings of Inception.
 
Glowing reviews were key in fueling Social Network’s receipts, led off by Scott Foundas’ infectious August write-up. Critics heralded the feature as this generation’s Citizen Kane; the movie earned a 97% Tomatometer score. Think-pieces on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in glossies and big city newspapers abounded, along with such behind-the-scenes features as producer Scott Rudin’s standoff with Facebook over the film's edit. "In the end we made the movie we wanted to make," Rudin has stated.

Let Me In (Overture’s remake of 2008’s Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In) also was lauded by critics with an 86% fresh rating, but its R-rating proved to be a stake in its heart.  Let Me In, which tells the touching tale of an awkward adolescent boy’s friendship with the girl bloodsucker next door, didn’t let the right ones into the auditorium--teens. Overture co-financed Let Me In with Hammer Films at a cost of $20 million. Let Me In skewed toward females under 34--audiences awarded it a horrific Cinemascore of C+.

Paramount has a reputation for launching blockbuster thrillers in the fall, i.e. Fatal Attraction and Double Jeopardy, but not this year.  The studio was so unsure about Case 39’s potential, they changed the release date several times since 2008.  Critics didn’t see the film and those that did, loathed it with a 21% rotten Tomatometer score.

The unfortunate casualty in Case 39 is Renee Zellweger.  Once a perennial award season darling during the golden Miramax era with stellar box office returns to match, the actress has been weathering misfires over the last five years and is overdue for a career makeover. Case 39 drew mostly older females (53%/55% over 25+) with a final Cinemascore of B-.

Long on the shelf, Case 39’s cost $27 million and has already earned $16.4 million in Europe and Latin America. After its solid performance in Spanish-speaking territories abroad, Paramount focused the film’s marketing on the stateside Latin market.
 
The top 10 films are as follows:
 
1. The Social Network (Sony): $23 million in its first weekend at 2,771 theaters.  $8,300 theater average. Domestic total: $23 million.
 
2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.): $10.86 million down 33%  in its second weekend at 3,575 theaters.  $3,036 theater average.  Domestic total: $30.0 million.
 
3. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox): $10.1 million down 47% in its second weekend at 3,597 theaters.  $2,808 theater average. Domestic total: $35.9 million.
 
4. The Town (Warner Bros.): $10 million down 36% in its third weekend at 2,935 theaters.  $3,407 theater average.  Domestic total: $64.3 million.
 
5. Easy A (Sony/Screen Gems): $7 million down 34% in its third weekend at 2,974 theaters.  $2,354 theater average.  Domestic total: $42.4 million.
 
6. You Again (Disney): $5.55 million down 34% in its second weekend at 2,548 theaters.  $2,179 theater average.  Domestic total: $16.4 million.
 
7. Case 39 (Paramount Vantage): $5.35 million in its first weekend at 2,211 theaters.  $2,420 theater average. Domestic total: $5.35 million.
 
8. Let Me In (Overture): $5.3 million in its first weekend at 2,021 theaters.  $2,622 theater average.  Domestic total: $5.3 million.
 
9. Devil (Universal): $3.7 million down 44% in its third weekend at 2,392 theaters.  $1,535 theater average.  Domestic total: $27.4 million.
 
10. Alpha & Omega (Lionsgate): $3 million down 37% in its third weekend at 2,303 theaters.  $1,302 theater average. Domestic total: $19 million. 

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