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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Nowhere Boy/Nowhere Man

And now, a couple of trailers I missed earlier.

First, because I’m a both a Beatles fan and a sucker for even the corniest of musical biopics, we have “Nowhere Boy” starring Aaron Johnson as the teenage John Lennon, minus the scuba suit and sporting an accent from his home country. Oh, and if you think 19 year-old  Johnson looks young, check out the kid playing a certain future vegetarian musical elder-statesmen (Thomas Sangster of “Love Actually,” it turns out). Turns out, he’s 19 also. It certainly beats the traditional Hollywood practice of having 28-35 year-olds playing teens. (H/t /Film.)

I’m sure many of you have long since seen the new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s all-star Phillip K. Dick-esque opus, “Inception,” which came out late last week. Just in case you’re like me and have managed to miss it up to now, here it is. I think I get why this one is shaping up as the next really big summer movie.

  

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BAFTA nominations

The British equivalent of the Oscars has announced its choices. Since the BAFTAs include American films, it’s often somewhat similar to the Oscars though with a bit of an edge, not surprisingly, for UK fare. You can see the complete list at the BAFTA site.

This year’s Best Film list looks very much like the lists we’ve been seeing all along, with one major difference. The spot usually reserved for “Inglourious Basterds” has been taken up by the highly regarded coming-of-age/relationship dramedy, “An Education,” which makes it the token British nominee in a field that includes usual suspects “The Hurt Locker,” “Precious,” “Up in the Air,” and “Avatar.” As if to make sure no Hollywood feelings were hurt too hard, Quentin Tarantino was nominated for Best Director while Lee Daniels — whose direction has, in fact, taken its share of criticism from some critics and film bloggers — went un-nominated for his work on “Precious.”

“An Education” is also nominated in the “Outstanding British Film” category against “In the Loop,” “Moon,” the currently in limited U.S. release “Fish Tank,” and the upcoming John Lennon biopic, “Nowhere Boy.”

an_education_trailer_gawker.flv

In other tidbits of interest, the terrific Andy Serkis of LOTR fame was nominated for Best Actor for his work in the musical biopic, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” which hasn’t been released here yet. There’s hope for a possible upset win for Serkis to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Jeff Bridges here, if the BAFTAs go by the usual acting award tendencies.Not only does Serkis transform himself into a fairly well-known entertainment figure as oddball rocker Ian Dury (that nailed Oscars for Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” and Jamie Foxx in “Ray“) but Dury was partially disabled by polio, so there’s that whole actors-playing disabled-characters-win-awards thing to deal with.

Some of you will also note that Sandra Bullock was not nominated for Best Actress. “The Blind Side” has not been released in the U.K. yet and therefore won’t be eligible until next year’s awards. Release patterns may also explain why the artful vampire tale, “Let the Right One In,” one of 2008’s biggest arthouse films in the U.S., was nominated for in the foreign language category this year.

  

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