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Box office report: The Social Network adds friends, Wall Street's stocks plummet

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If you believe the numbers reported for production budgets, then The Social Network‘s $50 million price tag seems like a drop in the bucket for Sony’s Columbia Pictures. With a $23 million opening, the film is David Fincher’s second straight film to open north of $20 million, though it can’t quite match the $30 million Panic Room made when it opened in 2002. With a great promotional campaign, especially the official trailer that uses a choir rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep,” it helped to sell as story about greed, betrayal and nerds generating thousands of lines of computer code. That last part doesn’t sound exciting, but you never can have enough greed and betrayal in a town like Hollywood. The Social Network currently has a score of 97 on Rotten Tomatoes and carries with it 28 perfect scores on Metacritic, by far the most of any film released in 2010. Whether or not it will have the legs to sustain a successful box office to match the Oscar campaign that is forthcoming is to be determined.

Even during a school year, kid flicks will have legs. Parents need a break on the weekend, so they’ll spend the money and take their children to the movies. Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians may only be a co-production between Legendary Films and Warner Bros., but coming out a week after Warner Bros. released The Town didn’t help its marketing campaign. Still, it has $30 million after two weeks, and you know it’s going to play like crazy on home video. Once it opens in more markets overseas, it could recoup the $80 million expenditure, but may not make up for the P&A costs. Not helping its case is Owl City’s “To The Sky.” It’s a catchy little pop number, but the montage it is used in seems like a music supervisor’s decision gone wrong. Though I’m sure some people said the same thing about Nite Owl and Silk Spectre knocking boots to Leonard Cohen’s rendition of “Hallelujah” in Watchmen.

In its second weekend of release, stocks fell on Wall Street. Money may never sleep, but its first-week audience was restless; they wanted something different. So they took their portfolios and invested in Facebook. When all is said and done Wall Street: MNS will probably top out at around $55 million domestic, which isn’t bad for an Oliver Stone movie but not quite the box office number that Shia LeBeouf is used to. As for the rest of the cast involved, Josh Brolin puts the dreadful Jonah Hex in his rear-view mirror on his way to better projects (notably, the Coen brothers’ True Grit in December). Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan doesn’t tarnish her resume with her performance here, but let’s see what happens when she stars in Sam Mendes’ adaptation of Ian McEwan’s (Atonement) On Chesil Beach in 2012. And of course there’s Michael Douglas. Hopefully this won’t be his last hurrah on the big screen. After Solitary Man I was beginning to think he was entering a new phase of his acting career. Hope it continues.

Ben Affleck’s The Town continues to hold its ground after three weeks. Gaining thirty-two theaters and losing 47% of its audience, it managed $10 million to take its total to $64 million. If the numbers don’t fluctuate in succeeding weeks it is inevitable that the Boston-centered crime drama could take in $90 million. Not bad for a film that only cost $35 million. I know I’m doing my part. I’ve told friends at how good the film is and that they should see it. Once they do the usual response is, “You were right.” The Social Network may be getting tons of press and praise, but don’t discount this great crime thriller. Jeremy Renner is worthy of Best Supporting Actor talk and with the Best Picture category having ten nominees, anything is possible.

Easily the best surprise I’ve seen in recent weeks, Screen Gems’ Easy A is by far the studio’s best release and it continues to get good reviews and returns. $42 million versus a production budget of $8 million makes it a hit. And it has turned red-headed eye candy Emma Stone into a star. This is her chance to shine and she’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. She’s confirmed to be Mary Jane Watson in the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise (The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker). Next summer she reunites with Easy A director Will Gluck on Friends with Benefits, a comedy that has a large ensemble (besides Stone, there’s Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Bryan Greenberg, Jenna Elfman and Andy Samberg).

In a case of “well we’ve been sitting on this project for years, do we release it in theaters or have it go straight to video?” there’s Case 39, starring Rene Zellweger and Bradley Cooper (hopefully audiences weren’t confused why Cooper didn’t have his A-Team physique). Without any press screenings Paramount Vantage made applesauce out of orange juice with this one. Cheaply advertised, its roll out in 2200 theaters was enough to outperform Overture’s Let Me In, a vampire romance not in the tradition of the Twilight series. Audiences’ horror dollar was stretched this weekend. In addition to Case 39 and Let Me In, there was Devil and two indie horror releases, Chain Letter (on 407 screens) and Hatchet II (68 screens).

The $5 million opening for Let Me In is disappointing, though not surprising. It’s an American update of a Swedish film that not many have bothered to watch. And audiences have made it clear they like their vampires with guns (the Underworld series), or they like them to glitter when the sun is shining.

Switching from mainstream theaters to the arthouse, Davis Guggenheim’s doc Waiting for “Superman” had the best per-screen gross of any film listed. Adding thirty more locations, it had a 193% spike in attendance, giving it a three-day gross of $407,000. The other Facebook movie, Catfish, added 79 screens to give it $607,000 for the weekend. Superman is getting a lot of notice and through gradual expansion it could be the must-see documentary of the fall and one that could eclipse $1 million. If successful, it would be the sixth documentary to earn more than million in 2010.

For fictional indie films, Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger earned $232,000 while Never Let Me Go earned $188,000. It now sits at $726,000 after three weeks. Buried had the lowest percentage drop in attendance (only 0.3%) and earned $100,000 in its second weekend of release. Look for Lionsgate to expand this Ryan Reynolds thriller throughout the month of October up until it releases Saw 3D. Showing that older audiences like to go to the movies too, Get Low starring Robert Duvall finishes its tenth weekend in theaters with $204,000. The film’s total now sits at $8.6 million.

1. The Social Network – $23 million
2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole – $10.9 million ($30 million)
3. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – $10.1 million ($36 million)
4. The Town – $10 million ($64 million)
5. Easy A – $7 million ($42 million)
6. You Again – $5.6 million ($16 million)
7. Case 39 – $5.4 million
8. Let Me In – $5.3 million
9. Devil – $3.7 million ($28 million)
10. Alpha and Omega – $3 million ($19 million)

Box Office Estimates taken from Box Office Mojo.

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