Box office: ‘The Social Network’ starts with a good $23 million; ‘Let Me In’ and ‘Case 39’ flop


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Positioning itself for a strong box-office run so long as audiences keep on pressing the ‘like’ button, Facebook drama ‘The Social Network’ opened to $23 million at the box office this weekend.

It took in more than twice as much from U.S. and Canadian moviegoers than the other two new films combined. ‘Let Me In,’ a well-reviewed remake of a Swedish vampire drama, and horror film ‘Case 39’ were about as popular as failed Facebook competitor Friendster is now, taking in $5.3 million and $5.4 million, respectively.


The kickoff for ‘The Social Network,’ directed by David Fincher, written by ‘The West Wing’s’ Aaron Sorkin and starring Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, was just slightly below what most in Hollywood had expected based on pre-release surveys. The heavily hyped picture, which was aggressively advertised and the subject of extensive media coverage, played very similar to another well-reviewed drama, Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town,’ which launched with $23.8 million two weeks ago.

The big question for Sony now is whether its movie will ride strong word-of-mouth to a long box-office run just like ‘The Town’ is doing. That film has fallen about 35% its second and third weekend in theaters and is already at $64.3 million after 17 days.

Sony and its financing partner, Relativity Media, spent just under $40 million to make ‘The Social Network,’ meaning they would be in good shape if the film holds as well as ‘The Town’ has. If it fades quickly, however, it may not end up a financial success. In the worst-case scenario, ‘The Social Network’ could end up being a hype-driven, one-weekend phenomenon in large cities that fails to ignite much conversation interest nationwide.

Audiences gave ‘The Social Network’ a good but not great average grade of B+, indicating that most moviegoers liked the movie but not nearly as intensely as critics, who were virtually unanimous in their praise. In positive news its audience was diverse, with just a slight tilt towards women and those 25 and older. That means it can draw from a broad pool of potential fans going forward.

‘Case 39’ and ‘Let Me In’ both opened below already mild expectations; the two films had far more limited advertising campaigns than that of ‘The Social Network.’ Paramount Pictures’ hopes for ‘Case 39,’ which saw its release date changed repeatedly over the last two years, were particularly limited. However the frightening film, which stars Renee Zellweger and cost $27 million to make, has already generated $17 million overseas.

Executives at Overture Films, which made ‘Let Me In,’ had higher hopes for their picture. But the 1980s-set drama from ‘Cloverfield’ director Matt Reeves shifted over to Relativity Media when that company bought Overture’s distribution and marketing assets this summer. Despite very strong reviews, ‘Let Me In’ couldn’t find an audience of either adults or young vampire fans, making it a disappointment even though it cost Overture and Hammer Films only about $20 million to produce.


Among last weekend’s openers, the top two switched places as 3-D animated family film ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole’ dropped only 33%, taking in $10.9 million. ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ experienced a less impressive but not bad decline of 47%, raking in $10.1 million.

Of three specialty films in limited release that debuted last weekend, education documentary ‘Waiting for Superman’ continues to play best, taking in $407,000 at 34 locations. The new Woody Allen comedy ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ generated a decent $232,424 at 29 theaters. But the Ryan Reynolds thriller ‘Buried’ lived up to its title, grossing only $100,000 from 33 theaters.

[Update, 11:12 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and International grosses are also included when available:

1. ‘The Social Network’ (Sony/Relativity): Opened to $23 million. 2. ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $10.9 million on its second weekend, down 33%. $8.3 million overseas in 21 foreign markets. Domestic total: $30 million. International total: $9.9 million.

3. ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ (Fox): $10.1 million on its second weekend, down 47%. $10.1 million overseas in 55 foreign markets. Domestic total: $35.9 million. International total: $22.3 million.

4. ‘The Town’ (Warner Bros./Legendary): $10 million on its third weekend, down 36%. $4.3 million overseas in 8 foreign markets. Domestic total: $64.3 million. International total: $13. 2million.


5. ‘Easy A’ (Sony Screen Gems): $7 million on its third weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $42.4 million.

6. ‘You Again’ (Disney): $5.5 million on its second weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $16.4 million.

7. ‘Case 39’ (Paramount): Opened to $5.4 million.

8. ‘Let Me In’ (Relativity/Hammer): Opened to $5.3 million.

9. ‘Devil’ (Universal/Relativity/MRC): $3.7 million on its third weekend, down 44%. $1.8 million overseas in 23 foreign markets. Domestic total: $27.4 million. International total: $9.5 million.

10. ‘Alpha and Omega’ (Lionsgate/Crest): $3 million on its third weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $19 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in ‘The Social Network.’ Credit: Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures. Bottom photo: Renee Zellweger and Jodelle Ferland in ‘Case 39.’ Credit: Paramount Vantage