Weekend Box Office: Seriously, America?

So, between the time that I saw ‘The Social Network’ last week and the time that it opened a few days ago, people have been asking me what kind of box office impact “the Facebook movie” might make. I had seen some of the estimates, which put opening weekend grosses in the low-to-mid 20s range. Those seemed “off” to me. “No way!” I exclaimed. “This is a movie that captures a generation – and it’s about the thing that all of us, no matter how strapped for time we are, can’t seem to get enough of! Plus, the movie is a complete work of genius! Those estimates are way low – I’d say opening weekend would be in the 30s or even 40s!” Well, as always, I was wrong.

The Social Network‘ did take the #1 slot, but with a comparatively moderate $23 million opening weekend haul. There’s also a discouraging trend among the analysis, with some tracking as low as $19 million. That’s still enough to clinch the top spot and about what Michael Douglas’ ‘Wall Street’ sequel did last weekend. According to volcanic rumor-monger Nikki Finke, who has spoken to some anonymous studio executives, the movie did well-enough on both coasts, and had a spike in Chicago, but otherwise didn’t play in the flyover states (i.e. the states populated by folks that don’t give a damn about internet/critical buzz and didn’t read that arresting cover story in ‘New York’ Magazine). Still, the weekend’s only-adequate gross is completely mind-boggling to me. And I really wonder what the final tally is going to be. Even with the great word of mouth and highbrow opening slot at this year’s New York Film Festival, I worry that it has maybe peaked too soon. There’s a long way to go between now and the Oscar nominations after the first of the year (an event that would usually propel a movie like this forward, at least commercially). I’m thinking about what happened last year with ‘Up in the Air‘ – the initial critical feeding frenzy at Telluride, a lull, not much box office impact, and finally not much Oscar love.

But ‘The Social Network’ is a better movie than ‘Up in the Air.’ And, more importantly, it’s a more youthful movie. Its PG-13 rating is a huge asset. If kids go out and see it this weekend (I haven’t talked to any young person about it yet) and tell all their friends, well, it could have a little movement that way. The score album, composed by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is flying off the shelves, digitally speaking, with an exclusive deal through Amazon. That’s another way that the movie could inch forward. I’m hoping for a surge at some point, but I’m not sure that surge will come.

The other forehead-slapping moment of indignity came when I saw the opening weekend of Matt Reeves’ genre-bending vampire flick ‘Let Me In,’ an adaptation of Swedish vampire sensation ‘Let the Right One In.’ This is THE movie that horror and genre fans claim they want but never get anymore: a smart, scary, funny, emotionally resonant film that is well-shot, well-scored, and conceptually ambitious. Instead of just rehashing the original, which anyone can rent or buy on DVD or Blu-ray, writer/director Reeves decided to more firmly entrench the movie in the political and moral quagmire that was 1980s America. He also quickened the film’s pace and enlivened many of the suspense set-pieces that made the original so memorable. In my estimation, it’s more or less a perfect horror movie. And so, of course, it was ignored almost completely.

‘Let Me In’ debuted at (wait for it) SEVENTH PLACE, with a paltry $5.2 million. That’s behind ‘You Again‘ in its second week. It barely eked past ‘Case 39,’ the long-delayed Renee Zellweger supernatural horror flick (that was completed in 2006), which came in at #8 with $5.1 million. This is just depressing. ‘Let Me In’ is so good, easily one of the year’s best. Where was everyone? At this rate, you’re going to be lucky to find a theater somewhere in the country still playing this thing at Halloween. (‘Saw 3D’ opens Halloween weekend, of course.) I’m not really sure what happened here, but I’m fairly depressed about it.

Also, weirdly, the ‘Legend of the Guardians‘ edged out Oliver Stone’s entertaining ‘Wall Street’ sequel for the #2 slot. I still haven’t seen the animated owl epic, but I think it’s bizarre.

The full, deathly Top 10:

01 ‘The Social Network’ (Sony) – $23 million

02 ‘Legend of the Guardians’ (Warner Bros) – $10.5 million

03 ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ (Fox) – $10. 2 million

04 ‘The Town’ (Warner Bros) – $9.8 million

05 ‘Easy A’ (Sony) – $7 million

06 ‘You Again’ (Disney) – $5.6 million

07 ‘Let Me In’ (Overture) – $5.2 million

08 ‘Case 39’ (Paramount) – $5.1 million

09 ‘Devil’ (Universal) – $3.9 million

10 ‘Alpha and Omega’ (Summit) – $3 million


  1. I haven’t gotten around to the owl movie either, but animals in armor just works for me. I saw ‘The Golden Compass’ simply based on the fact that there was a polar bear wearing plate mail and it did not disappoint!

    I mean, the movie could have been better, but I was in it for war bears.

  2. well you have high school football on fridays collage football on saturdays and pro football on sundays. those events play well in the midwest. add the last weekend of baseball and you have 23 million. also it has that i dont care to see that feel about it no matter what people say about it.im sure it’s a good movie ,still dont want to see it.

  3. El Bicho

    As good as it is, Let Me In is pretty much just a rehash so there’s no reason to pay top dollar to see it in theater.

  4. EM

    Drew, I wonder if your disappointment in “The Social Network”’s performance stems from a misreading of the audience demographic. Wouldn’t the people for whom the film’s topic is a generational touchstone be the sort that frequently prefers downloading movies or at least being mailed movies from Netflix over seeing movies in theaters?

  5. I’m steering well clear of Let Me In based purely on one single shithouse line from the trailer “I need blood to live” (perhaps the film makers thought this was a condition that only applied to vampires?). Typically the yanks have taken a gorgeously understated foreign film and turned it into an exercise in exposition. *slow clap*. Do yourself a favour and go rent “Let The Right One In” instead, it’s awesome.

    • You’re doing yourself a great disservice by dismissing the film without having seen it, all because you didn’t like one line of dialogue in the trailer (especially when the trailers are so misleading as to the actual tone of the movie). The remake is no more exposition-heavy than the original film.

      Abby (Eli) is talking to a 12 year old boy. The “I need blood to live” line is her way of making him understand what she is without actually saying that she’s a vampire. That’s as much as the movie goes into it. That’s the sum total of that conversation. Neither film is as explicit about the whys or wherefores of being a vampire or her extensive backstory as the original novel that they’re both based on.

      Let Me In is a *different* movie than Let the Right One In. Some changes have been made. That doesn’t automatically make it inferior, just different.

      I’m sure this won’t matter to you. Since you’ve already decided that you won’t like it, expectation will become reality.

  6. ilovenola2

    Josh, you are absolutely right!!
    Here’s my reaction to “Let Me In,” posted to a group of which I’m a member:

    Many thanks to you, Drew, for posting the comments that made me realize that, yes, I really DID want to see “Let Me In.”
    Stewart, you’re cheating yourself. You may hate the remake but if you don’t see it you’ll never know!

    Joe in NOLA

  7. ilovenola2

    Sorry, but for some reason, my comments on seeing “Let Me In” in the theatre last Sunday, didn’t copy into my comment. I’m trying again.
    If it doesn’t work, you’ll know I was totally impressed when I thought I probably wouldn’t be:

    Being a huge fan of the Swedish 2008 “horror” film, “Let the Right One In,” I approached its American remake, “Let Me In,” with some trepidation, despite the excellent reviews. These partially-read notices and positive comments from fellow fans of the original helped me decide to approach the film with an open mind.

    Nothing to fear (except in the movie!)! “Let Me In” is absolutely superb and easily the equal of its illustrious predicessor! The two young actors are simply marvelous, as touching as the originals. I highly recommend a trip to the theatre for this one.

    Better go quickly as it only took in $5.3 million bucks as of Sunday afternon and should leave the multiplexes within two weeks. I guess with its “R” rating and without any “Team” to root for that the vampire-loving public of today stayed away….and, selfishly, I’m glad to not have had to contend with texting, squalling teens and pseudo-grownups.

    I figured the best way to avoid any interruption from other patrons would be to attend today’s (Sunday’s) first showing which coincided with the playing of the latest New Orleans Saints game in the Superdome (and on tv). How right I was! There were about 10 people in my auditorium and a handful still in the multiplex when I left.

    I was able to enter my auto in time to hear the Saints squeak by for a 16-14 win.

  8. Thulsadoom

    Back on ‘The Facebook Movie’, I think there are a number of reasons it hasn’t done shockingly well. For starters, as someone said, the generation/type it’s aimed at. Older viewers won’t care much about seeing a movie telling the fictionalised story of Facebook. Younger viewers will be too busy up-dating their latest status and gossiping about their friend who changing their ‘relationship status’, to actually watch a film that requires they sit down in one place for more than an hour.

    Then there’s the fact that… sorry to say… it looks bloody boring!!! I love Fincher, but come on… Heck, I’ve helped program ‘social network’ type software in an educational context, and I have no interest in it (Then again, I’m not even ON facebook). My girlfriend is a Facebook addict and isn’t interested in seeing it. Really, apart from cinema fans who want to give it a go because it’s Fincher (even if they’re wondering if they’d be interested otherwise), who’s going to want to go see it??

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