Weekend Wrap-Up for October 1-3, 2010
Network Rules Softly; Let Me In, Case 39 Bomb
By John Hamann
October 3, 2010
It could have been a big weekend for the movies this weekend, but for some reason it did not turn out that way. We had two openers that received great reviews, had connections to pop culture, and carried some buzz, but neither lived up to expectations. Openers included The Social Network from one of the better directors of the last 15 years in David Fincher, and Let Me In, which was based on the international hit, Let The Right One In. The other opener, Case 39, was a traditional September/October dump – shot in 2006 and barely worth a mention. Holdovers didn't fare much better, as Wall Street 2 collapsed, and the Owls of Ga'Hoole started their long march toward obscurity.
Before I looked at the Friday box office results, I pictured in my mind what they would look like. I was expecting a $30 million plus weekend for The Social Network, so the Friday number had to come in at least $10 million. For Let Me In, I was expecting a $10 million plus frame, so I was expecting a $4 million Friday. I was also expecting Ben Affleck's The Town to rise above Wall Street 2. I was wrong on all counts. The Social Network had a Friday gross of around $8 million (easily 20% lower than I was expecting), and Let Me In bombed – barely grossing more than a little-marketed Renee Zellweger horror flick that feels dated (and is). Finally, The Town failed to get by Wall Street 2, even though the Michael Douglas sequel fell more on Friday than the expected 50%. North America, I am disappointed. Forgetting The Social Network under-performance (it will play forever), we have shelved a good, smart, horror film in Let Me In in favor of Disney pap like You Again.
Yes, the number one film of the weekend is The Social Network, Sony's intelligent, fast-paced story about the creation of Facebook. From director David Fincher, bringer of maybe the best two films of the last 15 years (Se7en, Fight Club), and writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), The Social Network was a lock for an Oscar nomination prior to its debut. It opened at 2,771 venues and earned $23 million, far less than the $30 million or more that tracking was expecting. Several media sources have pegged the budget on this one at less than $40 million, with IMDb saying $50 million. Regardless of the budget and whether the opening is soft or not, this is going to be a huge winner for Sony, as The Social Network should play strongly throughout October and into November. It also ought to find a decent sized audience overseas.
For director David Fincher, The Social Network represents the second biggest opening of his career. He got started in 1992, with Alien 3, which is actually my favorite entry in that series. It was no box office smash, and most audiences and critics didn't like it. It opened strongly enough, at $23 million (in 1992 dollars), but faded fast, finishing with a $55 million domestic total (it grossed over $100 million overseas). Next came Se7en, a lock for my top five films of all time. Fincher's warning of apathy was ironically his biggest hit over a 13-year span. It opened to $13 million, but went on to earn over $100 million domestically and another $228 million overseas. Se7en gave Fincher the Hollywood cred to make any film he wanted without studio interference. So, after making The Game with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn ($14 million, $50 million domestic finish), he made Fight Club.