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.



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Weekend box office: “The Expendables” kills with men; “Eat Pray Love” shines for women; the world defeats “Scott Pilgrim”

The ExpendablesI doubt he follows box office grosses, but like one of the books by right-leaning humorist/pundit P.J. O’Rourke, this weekend most certainly could have been entitled Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut. To be specific, Jason Statham is still two years shy of his 40th birthday, but he’s an infant compared to most of the cast of writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone‘s “The Expendables.”

The action flick, about mercenaries hired ostensibly to overthrow a repressive Latin American regime, relied on the very sound box office logic that if one or two super-macho action stars could lead to reasonably dependable ticket sales even when well past their physical peak, eight very grown-up action stars (counting two superstar cameos) was more or less a sure thing. More or less as predicted by everyone, the bloody R-rated actioner earned just over an estimated $35 million for Lions Gate. So says the mighty Box Office Mojo weekend chart.

Also, while Julia Roberts is substantially younger than Stallone, the early forties are not young in actress years. Her many female fans, and the fans of the popular memoir, “Eat Pray Love,” embraced that maturity to the tune of an estimated $23.7 million for Sony. The studio spent a perhaps excessive $60 million on the flick, though the film clearly needed a star like Roberts to open like this, so her reported $10 million salary was probably worth it for the studio.

Sony had a decent weekend overall, with last weekend’s #1 film, “The Other Guys” suffering an average drop of just under 50% and earning an estimated $18 million in third place. Warner’s very leggy “Inception” held firm with an estimated $11.37 million getting into fourth place in its fifth week.

Then we have “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” The Pilgrim reception is inducing nasty flashbacks of past would be “viral” successes with its estimated $10.525 million. The film may well do better over the long run as it’s already a huge cult success, if you think about it, and the international numbers could always be different. Being “big in Japan” has certainly saved a lot of bands, why not Mr. Pilgrim?

However, it cost a not-tiny $60 million (including various credits and rebates for the Toronto-based films, says Anthony D’Allesandro) and was pretty much the talk of the Internet film geek sites for most of the summer. It also reportedly has done very well with the people who’ve actually seen it, both anecdotally and, according to Anthony D’Allesandro, according to Cinemascore. It should have done a lot better.


Behold the power of the Internet…to make fans bored with a movie before it comes out, while still leaving non-fans out in the cold.  More about this in a post to come later in the week, after the “actuals” come out. I will say I thought “Scott Pilgrim” would beat “Kick-Ass” as it theoretically should appeal to a wider audience, except that the superhero jet-black comedy actually made about $19 million on its below-expectations opening. As the man said, no one knows anything.

Meanwhile in limited release, the second highest per-screen average went to a decent opening for the intriguing Aussie crime thriller “Animal Kingdom” and “Get Low.” The folksy melodrama — which didn’t make me or anyone else in the audience I saw it with laugh much but some insist on calling a comedy drama — continues to get reasonably high at the box office despite my poor review and my delayed write-up of the press conference with charming stars/acting legends Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek, which I promise you’ll be seeing before much longer. I truly don’t see the appeal, but Oscar hopes are growing for this one. More on limited releases, as usual, at Indiewire.


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“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — the non-motion picture

Talking about “Scott Pilgrim” shortly before Comic-Con with someone I know whose work straddles the world of comic books and show biz and who I think has a very good understanding of both mediums, the person commented that the trailer for Edgar Wright’s highly anticipated film version really captured the comic book it’s based on in some rather specific ways.

I was slightly surprised. Wasn’t Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book manga-style and aren’t actors like Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead blessed with normal sized heads and eyeballs? Isn’t the book in black and white and the movie in rather vivid color?

I was surprised but also being semi-facetiously silly and superficial, there’s obviously a lot more to visuals than color and the shape of people’s eyeballs and heads. Now, here to prove that point is this very nice reconstruction of the trailer using panels from O’Malley’s comics together with audio from the trailer.

H/t /Film.


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A really #@#$# afternoon outside the MTV Movie Awards


I know, you all secretly envy the glamorous life of we entertainment writers. The high pay, the fast cars, the loose women, the expensive perks, the free bottled water — okay, it’s only really the last of those that I’ve come to expect as a matter of course. That’s especially the case when I’m in a red carpet line and expected to stand in direct sunlight on a very warm day for three hours waiting to talk to people of note who never stop by.

Yes, we entertainment writers do occasionally get  free food and beverages in return for showing up to cover red carpets and press days and the like.  It’s all part of the PR machine and I suppose you could argue that sometimes it goes too far. However, most of it is is far from gourmet quality, very few of us are well paid, and if all takes to influence you to cover something positively rather than negatively is a free hoagie, some pasta salad, and a cupcake, integrity wasn’t exactly your middle name to start with.

Still, if people are going to be forced to stand around outside on quite a hot day for close to three hours, quite literally risking a case of mild sunstroke (my mistake for not bringing a hat, I suppose — and thanks to the nice guy next to who allowed me to use his freebie sunblock), then providing access to water might be a good idea. No one I saw fainted or became ill, but no one around me seemed very happy either. Of course, what we all really wanted was a chance for some fun and shallow conversation with celebrities. Since I mainly cover movies, and this was, after all, the MTV Movie Awards, people somehow related to them would be nice. Television is good, too, though my knowledge is not as broad there. Reality television is something else again.

And this is  part where I have to confess that I went to the MTV Movies Awards Red Carpet and I only got a few odd celebrity photos and two brief interviews with young and, I’m sure, quite skilled young actors who are anything but household names. Considering the huge crush of better known media outlets, I wasn’t likely to get a moment with any genuine superstars — just, you know, someone. Okay, so Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, or Michael Cera or even Betty White or Zach Galifianakis or Ed Helms and Ken Jeong might be off the table, but, well, give me somebody or don’t bother to put me there at all. I’ve got better things to do than to make celebrities feel important by trying to get pictures of them as they rush into the air-conditioned confines of Universal’s Gibson Amphitheater.

Given the high ratio of big stars and the small number of mid-level personalities, interesting newcomers, or behind-the-camera talent, I had my suspicions early on. When I saw the costumed and photogenic young lady below, who turns out to ace celebrity stalker La Coacha, the “first protege” of Perez Hilton, I figured I’d better request a picture. It was just possible the attractive junior gossip hound would be the most famous person I’d meet. She was, as it turns out, definitely the prettiest.


Read the rest of this entry »


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Weekend box office: “Shrek Forever After” #1 with diminishing returns; “MacGruber” explodes, but in the bad way

Shrek Forever AfterThe fourth and, I’m guessing, probably final theatrical bow for the soulful green troll with the Scottish accent grossed an estimated $71.25 million this weekend for Dreamworks and Paramount, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo chart. That’s a lot more than enough to make “Shrek Forever After” the top movie in the country this week, and a substantial take for any movie. It is, however, significantly below the $121.6 that the widely unloved last entry in the series earned on its opening weekend back in 2007 — without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices.

It’s even further below the  numbers that were being bandied about by writers, if not, studios, earlier on. I mentioned last time that Carl DiOrio thought the film could hit $100 million, but failed to note the breakdown at the Numbers. It said that while “analysts” (whoever they may be) were suggesting a $90-$95 million opening, the studio was pimping a more modest $80 million while trying to diminish expectations. They should have diminished them a little bit more.

The week’s other major opener, “MacGruber,” proved my hunches to be at least as wrong as DiOrio’s. While steering clear to some extent of the $15-20 million guess at the Numbers, I doubted the single-digit numbers that DiOrio mentioned. As the singer of the obscure Difford and Tilbrook tune says, let’s face it, I’m wrong again. As it turns out, even DiOrio’s lowest figures weren’t low enough. The incompetent MacGyver-like bomb diffuser only earned a fairly pathetic $4.1 million in 2,551 theaters for the #6 spot. I think it’s safe to say that the poor reputation of SNL-derived films clearly preceded this one, which actually has garnered reviews that are a bit better than most other films in this long-running franchise.

Grim faced Ryan Phillipe, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig face the b.o. music

Still, considering that most SNL sketches, even at their best, never seem to sustain until the end of the bit, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the movies derived from them have a hard time holding attention through feature-length running times. If “MacGruber” suffered from a bit of movie guilt-by-association, it’s just too bad for anyone who was hoping for a quick A-list status for the off-kilter Will Forte — a performer who I think would fit in really nicely in a David Lynch movie. (I mean that as a compliment, I think.) On the other hand, every time I check Rotten Tomatoes, even it’s now-meh-to-bad (once kind of okay and maybe even almost good) critical numbers keep dropping, with “Top Critics” being a bit more brutal.

The #2 and #3 spots, respectively, were held by “Iron Man 2” with an estimate of $26.6 million for Marvel and Paramount, and “Robin Hood” with $18.7 million estimated for long suffering Universal. Probably helped by weak competition, both movies managed to keep their weekly drop to just under 50%. Still, I think it’s safe to call the $200 million “Robin Hood” a disappointment that won’t do much for the careers of either Russell Crowe or Ridley Scott, not that they’re in any danger of obscurity just yet.

A paucity of movies for women of any age probably also helped grow some legs for the #4 cross-generational rom-com, “Letters to Juliet,” which dropped only by 32.8% and earned a solid $9.1 million for the probably fairly modestly budgeted film. That should help young Amanda Seyfried cement her growing credibility as a box office draw, at least for young-female-skewing films and even if her most challenging film role so far has been ignored. Of course, that lack of female-friendly major draws will change next week with the arrival of “Sex and the City 2.”

Jesse Eisenberg is probably okay for the JewsOn the limited release circuit, it was actually a pretty good weekend for Jesse Eisenberg and the talented young actor’s efforts to prove he’s something other than a Jewish knock-off of Michael Cera. His high-concept drama with mixed reviews, “Holy Rollers,” performed fairly strongly in its opening weekend on three screens with a solid per screen average of $13,003 from an audience that probably discussed after the film whether the drama about a drug-running Hasid was good or bad for the Jews. Doing even better was the all-star comedy, “Solitary Man,” top-lined by Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (let’s not talk about how long it’s been since “Romancing the Stone” and ‘The War of the Roses”),” and also featuring mid twenty-something Eisenberg. On the strength of strong reviews and the cast, it managed an estimated $22,250 on four screens. As usual, Peter Knegt at Indiewire has the details.


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