Weekend box office: “The Social Network” kicks off Oscar season with a low-key victory; “Let Me In” in isolation

The Social NetworkNot that a brainy drama about the founding of a popular web site really should do ultra-massive business, but there were those expecting huge numbers for “The Social Network” and, as reported here on Thursday, the film was expected to make at least $25 million. However, as we peruse the Box Office Mojo chart, we see that it did a respectable but far from immense $23 million and, as everyone is noting, it’s success seems to be concentrated in urban areas. Not a surprise. Still, for those fascinated by the Jessie Eisenberg vs. Michael Cera Jewish dweeb v. Goyish geek showdown, this is a big win for Team Jessie, I suppose. Mazeltov.  Overall, it seems likely that the collaboration between between the powerhouse team of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin’s place as the film-to-beat, awards-wise, is set and that should mean some very strong legs.

The week’s #2 film was probably a pleasant surprise for Zack Snyder and Warners. “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” did well in matinees, probably benefiting from little competition for the always crucial family dollar. The film dropped only 32.6% from its lackluster opening for an estimate of $10.8 million and change. Oliver Stone’s third-place “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” suffered a more usual drop of just under 47% for a neither-bullish-nor-bearish estimated week 2 take of $10.1 million for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox.

Easy A,” a cheaply made and therefore very profitable mini-hit comedy, and the outright bomb, “You Again,” earned estimates of $7 million and a skosh above $5.5 at fouth and fifth place, respectively. Then, we get to this week’s two horror releases.

“Case 39” — a horror flick aimed at adults which has generated no excitement anywhere, with anyone, is thought to have made about $5.35 million. Still, that makes them a whole $50,000 ahead of this week’s real box office unfortunate.

People will be picking apart the really not good $5.3 million estimated performance for Overture of the solidly made, beautifully acted horror/coming-of-age remake “Let Me In” for weeks. I personally think that both Anne Thompson and her box-office guy Anthony D’Allesandro are partially on the right track. The idea that it fell in the cracks between the art-house and horror world has some real validity. As I’ve often noted, horror fans these days seem to demand hard-edged scares often amounting to simulated trauma, and “Let Me In” pretty obviously isn’t going to that place. Real art house patrons might turn up their noses, preferring the “real” film, “Let the Right One In,” from Sweden and non-horror fans might avoid it simply because it’s horror. Some may even assume it’s in some way like “Twilight.”

There’s also the issue of R-rating which D’Allesandro termed a “stake through the heart.” Indeed, both films will likely become favorites of young people who see them on home video and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I usually dislike parents taking young kids to “hard R”-rated films, but despite a couple of scenes of strong blood, some ingeniously implied ultra-violence, and some morally complex ideas that would probably benefit from a bit of parent-child discussion, I certainly wouldn’t think less of parents allowing mature tweens to see either film. I’m sure many will on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The other good news for Matt Reeves, however, is that his film only cost $20 million. It’s also possible there will be some award nominations here and there. It’s just a shame that, given their ages, neither Chloe Moretz or Kodi Smit-McPhee are likely to be nominated in the Best Actor or Actress Oscar category, and there’s really no justification at all to say that either of them are in “supporting” roles. It’s completely their movie.

LET ME IN

  

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Weekend box office preview: All the cool kids to see “The Social Network”; “Let Me In” bullied

So, I guess when vampire movies actually have a strong story and believable characters played by terrific young actors, they suddenly become box office poison, easily beaten by a movie about an unlikable computer geek. That’s encouraging.

Jessie Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in

I guess I should be jumping for joy that a movie — almost any movie — from the provocatively counterintuitive team of Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher is primed to head things up at the box office. Sony’s “The Social Network” has been getting mightily hyped, generating some of the year’s very best reviews and just a bit of controversy over its accuracy. It all spells awards-season hit with the added bonus of a youth-friendly cast and topic — the creation of Facebook, though it’s a big mistake to think only young people use Facebook. In any case, the $25 million or over weekend suggested by both Jolly Carl DiOrio and Ben Fritz seems reasonable.

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen “Let Me In” and while I agree with our David Medsker that it doesn’t do a huge amount cinematically to justify its own existence apart from the outstanding original Swedish film, it benefits from the same creepily heart-string tugging story as the original, which will be totally new to most viewers. Moreover, the one area where the film is an improvement over the original is in its performances, Kodi Smit-McFee and Chloe Moretz are just breathtakingly good and I can’t imagine most viewers not being drawn into the very moving and very creepy twice-told tale.

Chloe Moretz is Richard Jenkins' boss in One obvious problem is that this is a film a lot of older kids will definitely want to see, but it’s rated R and, I have to say, not entirely inappropriately. It’s no gorefest, but it’s violent and bloody enough and it tricks us into sympathizing with some pretty immoral actions by very young people, which is not a bad thing but really kind of the point. In other words, you need a certain level of moral maturity to get what the film is really about. I nevertheless think parents should consider taking more mature tweens who are interested to see it, even if director Matt Reeves juices up the blood and violence just a hair from the original film. It’s still a highly intelligent and thought-provoking tale that definitely de-romanticizes the vampire myth while also being a wonderful metaphor that explains why parents might worry about the kinds of friends their kids make.

More infuriating than the fact that this relatively excellent film being expected to make significantly less than $10 million this weekend, is the fact that it might be beaten by the lame looking, poorly reviewed more adult skewing horror flick from Paramount/Vantage, “Case 39” with Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper. We need armies of cinema counselors out this weekend, folks, steering filmgoers desirous of chills away from this and towards “Let Me In” — whose with me? Okay, fine.

There is some action on the limited release front. Yet another R-rated horror film from a company I’ve never heard of called New Films Cinema (aren’t “Films” and “Cinema” the same thing?), “Chain Letter,” is going out unreviewed and all but undiscussed into 401 theaters this weekend according to Box Office Mojo.

We also have a major expansion of the highly buzzed documentary “Catfish” and the highly touted documentary spin-off of a very popular non-fiction tome from Magnolia, “Freakonomics.” My own very mildly positive reaction to it is just a hair better than the overall critical reaction, but there’ll no keeping fans of the book away from it, even if the movie is mainly eliciting a bit of a shrug.

  

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