Hollywood B.O.: Waiting for Zuckerberg
I've been a bit lax with this column for reasons of travel, sickness, and September box-office blues, along with some aspect of hosting Sunday-night get-togethers to watch HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" (are we the only ones doing this?), but thought I'd post tardily on "The Social Network" weekend anyway.
First, kudos to Sony/Columbia for opening the film in more than 2,000 theaters. The first weekend in October is the weekend Warner Bros., in 2007, opened "Michael Clayton"—another well-reviewed film with Oscar potential—but in only 15 theaters. A week later, they opened it wider but it finished fourth, and floundered from there, never finding its audience until DVD when it didn't matter. No doubt the subject matter of "The Social Network" (internets!), and the average age of its stars (young!), helped Sony push it wider. Is that where we're going now? We can only get smart dramas in theaters if they star kids?
Thankfully "TSN" and its 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating won the weekend, grossing more than twice as much ($22m to $10m) as runner-up "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," in its second weekend, and far ahead of new releases "Case 39" and "Let Me In," which finished 7th and 8th respectively.
All good. Except last weekend's overall take, $94 million, was the second-worst of the year, behind only the $81 million from weekend no. 37 (the "Resident Evil" weekend). Every other weekend this year has grossed between $100 million and $220 million.
One might blame the time of year. It's all apple-picking and football-watching now. Except the first weekend in October in 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005 and 2004 all did better—even unadjusted for inflation. Only 2007, the weekend both "The Heartbreak Kid" and "The Seeker: The Dark is Rising" opened and bombed, saw worse numbers.
On the plus side, "The Social Network" seems to be getting good word-of-mouth. Its Sunday and Monday percentage drops were less than every other film in the top 10.
My concern, though, is that many moviegoers are like my friend Vinny, who saw the trailer and thought, "That looks like a rental." They'll wait until it comes out in DVD. When it won't matter.
"If you guys wanted to see 'The Social Network,'
you'd have seen 'The Social Network.'"
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