Weekend box office: “The Social Network” wins the popularity contest a second time

There weren’t a lot of big surprises this weekend. As I guessed might happen on Thursday, the rather run-of-the-mill competition from “Life As We Know It” and “Secretariat” was not enough to surpass the second week showing of the Oscar-trending drama from director David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, one of the very few writers around that audiences might actually know.

According to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart, “The Social Network” earned an estimate of $15.5 million. It’s also worth nothing that it’s actually in a few hundred fewer theaters than either of the new films it’s competing against. It’s healthy per screen average of $5,594 makes the fiscal victory, modest as it is, a bit sweeter. It’s week 2 drop was modest as well, just 30.9%. Those Academy Award legs may already be showing.

Speaking of the competition, the strangely premised “Life As We Know It” came in second with an estimate of over $14.6 million. Tween girls and degenerate gamblers apparently didn’t come through that much for their favorite animal, so “Secretariat,” about the Triple Crown winning horse of the early seventies, merely didn’t win or place, but it did show with an estimate of $12.6 million.

The 3D bump, and a truly idiotic publicity stunt, failed director Wes Craven’s return to the dead teenager genre. “My Soul to Take” set a new record low for 3D movies with an estimate of only a bit over $6.9 million, in fifth place behind Zack Snyder’s surprisingly leggy owl animated movie that I don’t feel like typing the name of right now.

It's Kind of a Funny StoryThe semi-limited release of the dramedy with indie roots, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” did lackluster business to match its unexciting reviews — a disappointment given the track record of directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.  It generated only an estimate of $2 million and change in 742 theaters.

Among truly limited releases, the winner this week in terms of per-screen averages was Charles Ferguson’s Wall Street/fiscal collapse documentary, “Inside Job” which earned a bullish estimate of $21,000 per screen in two theaters. Shock value at one remove, however, was not enough for the remake of the ultra-controversial “video nasty,” “I Spit On Your Grave” which earned only an estimated $33,000 from 12 screens. “Tamara Drewe,” which you’ll be reading about here some more this week, did respectable business with $19,000 from four arthouse screens in L.A. and New York.

Doing strong business this week was the young John Lennon biopic, “Nowhere Boy,” and a movie I failed to mention last time. “Stone” with Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro, which premiered in six theaters. Yes, Ed Norton and Robert DeNiro’s new movie was in only six theaters this weekend.

And, finally, a quick housekeeping note. Columbus Day isn’t exactly a major holiday in Southern California, unless you work for the Post Office or a library — I don’t remember ever even getting a day off from school for it — and it’s certainly only a box office footnote in the movie business. Nevertheless, I need a breather while I catch up on other matters. So, while all the usual wackiness here at Premium Hollywood will continue from my highly esteemed colleagues, I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break tomorrow and probably Tuesday.

  

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Weekend box office: Can a horsey biopic or a darkly premised romcom disconnect “The Social Network”?

Personally, I would think that, if only because of the eternal fascination of tween girls for all things equine, “Secretariat,” about the seventies triple-crown winner, would be the more likely film to unseat the early Oscar favorite from writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher, “The Social Network.” However, jolly Carl DiOrio (whose background music on his video has become distractingly un-jolly) thinks not, while L.A. Times box office guru Ben Fritz projects a possible $15 million photo-finish between it and “Life As We Know It,” a poorly reviewed rom-com with a bizarre and unlikely premise — Kathryn Heigel and Josh Duhamel hate each other but are somehow saddled with the custody of their dead best friends’ children without their prior consent and, naturally, fall in comedic love.

Kathryn Heigl and Josh Duhamel experience

For its part, “Secretariat” is getting decent, but not too excited reviews. From Randall Wallace, a director with a style that is both big “c” and small “c” conservative and written by Mike Rich of “Finding Forrester” and “Radio,” the tone is definitely old school and inspirational. There’s an audience for that. Perhaps reading more than is there because of Wallace’s past films, Andrew O’Hehir of Salon both praised and damned the film politically, only to be slammed in turn by a liberal of a less snarky nature, Roger Ebert, who writes that “Secretariat was not a Christian.”

On the other hand, the week’s other new release, “My Soul to Take” marks the return of Wes Craven to the slasher horror genre after five years with a 3-D entry that DiOrio thinks has a shot at “the mid-teen millions.” The movie is being sequestered from critics and sure sounds like a retread of past dead teenager films. On the other hand, even as a squeamish guy who will never, ever see his “Last House on the Left” or “The Hills Have Eyes,” I’ve always admired Craven — I’ve been able to make it through a few of his films — and he was nice to me and some other geeks when I met him as a teenager. I won’t be mad if it does better than expected.

Zach Galifianakis in In limited release are far more movies than I have time to talk about tonight adequately, but I’ll mention a few anyway.  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is actually not such a limited release, as its being opening in 742 theater nationwide. It a dramedy featuring the underrated Zach Galifianakis from the team that made the highly acclaimed indie dramas “Sugar” and “Half-Nelson,” that is dividing critics to some extent, with my colleague Jason Zingale being not too impressed.

We also have some potential Oscar material with the young John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” and potential retching material with the remake of the ultra-controversial grindhouse torturific horror rape-revenge legend, “I Spit On Your Grave” (also on my “never, ever see list”). “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” is an Anglo-Indian production being touted as a combination of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Finally, I wish I could say better things than I did in my review of the latest from my favorite non-auteur living director, Stephen Frears, “Tamara Drewe” but ex-Bond-girl star Gemma Aterton is definitely worth a look.

Gemma Aterton in

  

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Midweek movie news of the world

I’m getting a very, very late start tonight/this morning so let’s see how efficient and brief I can be. Also, we’ll see how many utterly huge stories I’ll miss.

Mark Ruffalo in *  I suppose the big news today is that it really appears as if there’s already an Edward Norton replacement after his departure as the Hulk from “The Avengers” was egregiously mishandled by Marvel’s Kevin Feige. The choice appears to not be Joaquin Phoenix but the first-rate, not nearly famous enough Mark Ruffalo. He is the deceptively low-key actor I’ve been rooting for since catching him in “You Can Count On Me” back in 2000. (It was my favorite movie of that year and also made me a life-long fan of Laura Linney.) Ruffalo is currently in the year’s probable indie-smash, “The Kids Are Alright.” As sussed out from various reports by Kevin Jagernauth of the Playlist, it appears he’s still in some pretty serious negotiations that are not yet really anything like a done deal. He’s a shrewd choice for Marvel and this would be a good way to salvage a thoroughly unfortunate situation.

* Joaquin Phoenix might not be the Hulk, but the probable mockumentary (or not) about him made by his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, has been picked up by Magnolia. I’m not looking forward to the already infamous “Cleveland steamer” scene. Just FYI, much as I admire John Waters, “Pink Flamingos” is on my short “never see” list, but that infamous final scene is a lot worse, I suppose. I get ill just thinking about it.

* The fascinating outlandish career of arthouse poet turned stoner-action-comedy specialist David Gordon Green may take another fascinating turn if he really does remake Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” — which, I somehow managed to sit through some fifteen years or so back despite my squeamish/scaredy cat ways, because, among other reasons, it’s so freaking beautiful. Also, I’ve always had the hots for Jessica Harper.

Suspiria4

* If you want to know who the best, most essential, and most thoughtfully cinephilish bloggers and blogs are, check out the terrific blogroll from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Congrats to my old bloggy compadres Dennis Cozzalio, Kimberly Lindbergs, Farran Smith Nehme, and Greg Ferrera, among others, for making the prestigious list.

* Nathaniel Rogers didn’t get a mention, though he certainly deserves it. The openly actresexual blogger did, however, get a very nice interview with his idol, Julianne Moore, who I kind of idolize myself. More congratulations are in order.

* I suspect that those old Steve Reeves Hercules movies will wind up being a lot more watchable than whatever Brett Ratner makes of the mythical strongman. I’m sure he can’t top the Disney animated film, even if it wasn’t the greatest of the studio’s nineties animation output. Cue the “do you like to watch gladiator movies”  jokes.

* If you’re wondering why the post two posts below this one has no video, here’s why. Somebody let me know if there’s a new version up, since the whole thing is a bit of a legalish technicality.

* Note to my friend, Zayne: Yeah, I missed this reconstruction of a lost ultra-obscure exploitation gangster film tonight about kidnapping the Pope (and asking for a $1.00 from every Catholic in the world — though  these days I doubt they’d pony up). I’m therefore bummed.

* Alison Nastasi has an interesting response to a fairly thoughtful rant by Dustin Rowles on the controversy around the new cover art for the remake of another film on my probably never-see list, “I Spit On Your Grave.” The poster is obviously in horrible taste, but isn’t that kind of the point?

* Now that a fourth tape is out, I wonder if Mel Gibson will get the message and give up the drunk dialing.

* I’m confused. If the planned film with Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane is in any way actually closely modeled on John Cassavettes’ “Husbands,'” as director Mark Pellington seems to say, then I don’t think it should be called a “thriller.”

  

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