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: greed is still pretty good

Things turned out at this weekend’s box office more or less as predicted on Thursday. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” came in on top at an estimated $19 million for Fox, according to the Box Office Mojo chart, about a million or two shy of the figures being bandied about, but close enough for an adult skewing film expected to have decent legs. Nikki Finke thinks it may have missed it’s moment in terms of being a topical must-see and also avoiding some bad press provided by the mouthy Oliver Stone. Maybe. She also points out that Fox hasn’t exactly been on a hot streak this summer. Still, this is actually a career high, raw cash wise, for Stone and not too bad a showing for the longest break between an original and a sequel since Martin Scorsese and Paul Newman dared to follow-up the genuine classic, “The Hustler,” with his underrated non-classic, “The Color of Money,” a quarter century after the fact.

Following not so far behind, really, is Warners’ “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” which earned an estimated $16.3 million. Anthony D’Allesandro is calling the film a “bomb” along the lines of the recent “Cats and Dogs” sequel. That may be accurate compared to what family films like this usually make and in light an as yet unspecified large budget but it’s still within a couple of million of this weekend’s $50-70 million live-action hit.

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While the books might have had an audience, something just seemed generally awry and the film lacked a clear premise for non-fans other than “owls fighting.” Whether or not Zack Snyder, whose early hits are receding in the memory of Hollywood, no doubt, gets to remain in the high end movie big leagues may now be largely dependent on what happens when his strange and zany looking action fantasy, “Sucker Punch,” comes out on 3/25/11.

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Weekend box office never sleeps, does it?

It’s certainly not resting this very busy weekend when the return of Mr. “Greed is Good” himself and a bunch of 3-D fantasy owls will battle for the #1 spot, with any number of other interesting things happening on the sidelines.

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The smart money seems to be pretty positive that “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” will earn in the neighborhood of $20 million and so may end up winning the weekend. At least that’s what I’m reading via jolly Carl DiOrio and the more circumspect Ben Fritz.

The audience for the latest from Oliver Stone skews fairly older, not only because it’s a topical thriller from the bombastic but literate Stone, but because it’s a sequel to a hit movie that is — shockingly for some of us — old enough that 24 year-old co-star Shia LaBeouf was barely a toddler when it first came out. That may help with the film’s longevity since older audiences tend to take their time seeing a new movie. Also, a bit of extra publicity from Gekko-man Michael Douglas‘s well-publicized upbeat battle with cancer might add to awareness over the long term. The reviews, which also have a somewhat stronger effect on older viewers, are only meh-to-okay with somewhat better response from more blue-state-centric “top critics.”

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It’s time for another end of week movie news dump. Yay.

Yup, with Cannes going on and the early-early summer movie season happening, things are hopping.

* Nikkie Finke broke the news this morning of the latest chapter in the never-ending tale of the battle over the rights to the character of “Superman.” It seems DC is countersuing lawyer Marc Toberoff on the grounds of conflict of interest. Sure does sound like “hardball” but that’s what happens when millions of dollars are at stake.

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* It never ends. It just never, ever ends. A new alleged victim has come forward claiming that Roman Polanski raped her during the eighties when she was sixteen. (The terms used in the article are “sexually abused” in “the worst possible way” — I have no clue how that could not be rape, at the very least, if true). The woman is being represented by, naturally, Gloria Allred.

At this time, there’s no corroborating evidence beyond the charges. If there is, I think it’s curtains for Polanski and he’ll find himself suddenly and justifiably all-but friendless in Hollywood. It’s one thing to have one extremely nasty episode in your past, it’s quite another to be a serial sexual predator.

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