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