Two of the year's most anticipated films hit the multiplexes this weekend, as well as two horror films. Unfortunately for one of the horror films, there's some overlap between those two categories.
Weekend Forecast for October 1-3, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
October 1, 2010
Love it or hate it (or both at the same time), Facebook has become an omnipresent fact of life in modern society. Originally started as a social connection site for Harvard students, it's slowly spread outward to the rest of the world with the unstated goal of moving as much of human interaction as possible online. The Social Network purports to tell the story of Mark Zuckerberg, founder (or “founder”, depending on who you believe) of Facebook.
As scripted by Aaron Sorkin (who you'll likely see on Oscar night), it's a sort of very low-key techno-business-thriller, The Social Network is one of those zeitgeist films that captures the spirit of a time, which its director, David Fincher, has a particular knack for. Only in this case, he's aiming for more than just millennial malaise or disaffected 20-somethings – he's going for the whole shebang.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg from his humble beginnings when he was just a comp sci student trying to score women in an ineffectual way - through his ridiculous rapid run up to become a billionaire mogul in just a handful of years, while alienating just about everyone he ran into. His passion, some might say obsession, about social status with the rich kids he was surrounded with was the impetus for the mainstreaming of the social network society. And then we made Farmville with it. Yay us.
The rest of the cast is basically full of unknowns and That Guys and Girls, with one exception. Justin Timberlake, who's becoming disgustingly too good at too many things, plays Napster founder Sean Parker, the guy who really turned Facebook into a behemoth. But then the cast isn't what's going to really attract people – it's the subject matter and the rave reviews. While not every review is rapturous in its praise, they're almost universal in their positive direction. It's the first film of 2010 that's pretty much guaranteed to be on the short list on Oscar night for Best Picture. Analogs are hard to come by for The Social Network as far as its box office potential – I find myself looking back to films like Network, which obviously don't have a lot of relevance to modern box office. Instead we're left with Fincher's solid record and to give it the Critically Acclaimed Oscar Movie box office, and with a subject that everyone is familiar with, could find around $27 million this weekend.
The first of two horror movies this weekend is Let Me In, a remake of 2008 Swedish import Let the Right One In, about a young (in appearance, if not age) vampire and the outcast school boy who decides to befriend her (it?). The original was remarkable for its bleak setting, uncompromising violence and dark humor, and much of that seems to have survived the translation, in a bit of an upset.
Unknown Kodi Smit-McPhee takes over the role of the lonely picked on kid, while Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass's Hit Girl) steps in as the positively creepy little blood-sucker who seems just as eager to find a friend, or perhaps a servant. It's perhaps a bit of a cliché to say “Twilight this is not”, but then it really isn't – there's no ridiculous teen drama, no laughable sparkly vampires and no pulling of punches (also, no Vampire Baseball!). Vampires in Let Me In are blood-suckers in both literal and metaphorical ways, leaving waves of physical and emotional destruction in their path.
Amazingly well reviewed for a remake of a foreign horror film, it still has to fight against the relative anonymity of its actors. Then again, that's not always impossible in this genre, and the film looks suitably atmospheric and chilling enough for the uninitiated that it should be able to earn the low teens figures that most lower-budget horror films can manage these days. Look for around $11 million, or about what the original made in its entire first run.
Lastly we have Case 39. The film centers around Renee Zellweger as a children's services worker who rescues a young girl from her seemingly psychotic foster parents, who had locked her in their basement and had designs on “sending her to hell”. However, after bringing her home to live with her home, Zellweger starts to realize that those crazies might have been on to something, as strange and disturbing things start to happen around her – like swarms of bees coming out of her boyfriend (in the film and in real life) Bradley Cooper. The film then becomes a struggle to keep the girl from destroying all those around her that are trying to save her.
Case 39 comes to us several months after premiering in Europe, which is really never a great sign, and it didn't fare all that well over there. Promotion seems to be minimal-to-none for it here, though you'd think Paramount would at least take a few swings with two big-name actors to work with. One gets the sense of cutting of losses, and I expect a tiny total of around $7 million for its debut.
That brings us to our returning films, starting with Wall Street 2. While a $19 million opening doesn't seem like much, you have to remember that this is a film that literally no one was asking for. That Oliver Stone was able to convince people that talking about finance again, even to this degree, was interesting is a modest coup. I feel little urgency in people telling each other about this film, and with The Social Network stealing its spotlight, it should fall to around $11 million this weekend.
Legend of the Guardians remains the sole family film of note out there, and that might help it hold on to a significant portion of its $16 million opening, but we're still talking about a 3D film shot like 300 with owls. It should slip to around $10 million for its second frame.
There's a strong likelihood then that The Town will slip past both these films, though we now have what you might call a glut of films that appeal to viewers over the age of 25. Ben Affleck's ascent to directorial stardom has earned a little over $50 million at this point, and with decent legs has a better than average shot at $100 million total. If, as a crime thriller, it can distinguish itself from the rest of the pack of films this weekend, it should be able to hold its own at $11 million.
Lastly of note, Easy A held up reasonably well for a teen comedy, dropping just 40%. Emma Stone's winning performance in this smart comedy about sexual politics should be able to push this to around $60 million total, with about $6 million this weekend.