FACEBOOK FILM #1: ‘The Social Network’ Opens With $23M Weekend; Big In Cities: “Rest Of The Country Could Care Less”

SATURDAY PM UPDATE: Sources have given me North American grosses for Friday, Saturday, weekend, and cumes:

1. The Social Network (Sony) NEW [2,771 Theaters]
Friday $8M, Saturday $8.9M, Weekend $23M

The stories behind Microsoft and Apple only rated TV movies. But The Social Network received the full big screen PG-13 treatment as the first major pedigreed project about the Internet that wasn’t just another crime thriller. It’s that rarity in Hollywood: a younger movie with adult dialogue but not without an element of risk because it’s a drama. “Big kudos to Amy Pascal because it was not an obvious movie to make,” one Hollywood influencer reminded me. That’s why media coverage of this much-buzzed-about Facebook origins pic has been so breathless about every nuance of the marketing campaign: from the launch of the initial teaser spots to the brilliant one-sheet to the enigmatic trailer and “punk, genius, billionaire” outdoor ads.

It’s never been in doubt that this movie would be a success for Sony since it claims to have kept its budget under $40M thanks to no stars and deferred compensations for the filmmakers. But was it over-hyped? “No matter where we open, I think we will play for a long time with excellent word of mouth,” a Sony exec boasted to me. “For a film skewed towards adults this time of year, $20M is our bar and would be a fantastic start.” But Hollywood expected $25M and the pic slightly underperformed – $8M Friday (including $350K in post-midnight showings), up +11% for $8.9M Saturday, and with an estimated $6.1M that’s $23M this weekend. Still, I’m surprised box office wasn’t even better despite its middling release — like $30+M given its obvious Facebook/My Space/Twitter effect. Too bad those Harvard pretenders in the pic didn’t have more sex or dress better. And they’re brooders without even being vampires. And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is no super-hero. But, seriously, the reason may well lie in the film’s elitism which could be keeping more mainstream audiences away. “Left coast, right coast, and a smidge of Chicago only. The rest of the country could care less,” a rival studio exec pointed out the pic’s attendance patterns to me late Friday, adding Saturday. “It’s a big city pic only.”

The Social Network isn’t just a figment of hype; it logged a “B+” Cinemascore and very positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Exit surveys showed the opening weekend audience was 53% female and 55% were ages 25 and older. Based on the book Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the film ironically wasn’t made by a new filmmaking generation but by the same old showbiz veterans: scripted by Aaron Sorkin (who made $3 million for the writing assignment) and directed by David Fincher (who I’m told took no money upfront at first) and produced by Scott Rudin (who also deferred everything but his producing fee) and Mike De Luca, Dana Brunetti, and Cean Chaffin.

Since its Labor Day screenings for the Hollywood influencers began, it’s been touted for a Best Picture Oscar — although I worry it’s peaking too early because of its early October release date. But from a box office standpoint, that’s the same weekend Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg’s Zombieland debuted last year to #1 with $24.7M for Sony. With 2 big movies opening around $24M each to his credit, Jesse is a new and unlikely star. Justin Timberlake again demonstrates he can act. And even the pic’s unknown stars are reaping its rewards: Sony recently cast Andrew Garfield as its rebooted Spider-Man, and chose Rooney Mara for the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which, not surprisingly, Fincher is directing and Rudin producing.

The Social Network‘s tracking was unexpected. At first, its awareness was highest among adults. (“Old people thought it looked cool,” laughed one insider.) Then across-the-board strength built among ages 17-34 and teens both male and female. That’s because the Internet outreach campaign for younger people didn’t kick in until 2 weeks ago while campaigns for older people have to be laid in much longer in advance. Sorkin took the movie on a college tour for Sony as part of an extensive word-of-mouth screening campign. And the studio even ran a sweepstakes online where, if you had more than 500 friends on any social network site, you could enter to win a random drawing to host a screening of the film in every state for 50 friends. “The buzz has been building, and I have never seen a crescendo that is so unanimously strong,” a Sony exec gushed to me. The Social Network Original Score Album by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross even rocked the music charts as the top seller on Amazon’s MP3 Store.

2. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,575 Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $11M (-32%), Cume $30.1M

What a surprise #2 thanks to a big +90% Saturday kiddie matinee bounce. Though its opening weekend numbers didn’t heat up audiences, but it’s holding well.

2. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) [3,597 Theaters]
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $4.3M, Weekend $10.1M (-47%), Cume $35.8M

A decent hold from what was a decent opening a week ago. Fox still thinks it skated, and I agree.

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Comic-Con #15: Round-Up Of Other Panels

Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con for Deadline:

A round-up of some other panels, in brief…

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
Should they have called this, BATTLE: L.A., since it was actually shot in Louisiana, and that would provide plausible deniability? Regardless, the look being strived for here is obviously BLACK HAWK DOWN meets DISTRICT 9. Aaron Eckhart leads an army team to find survivors in a besieged Los Angeles that has been bombarded by alien artillery fire. He has three hours to get in and out before the U.S. Military’s bombs drop (implied, but not said in the clip, is that these bombs will be nuclear). Read More »

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Comic-Con 2010 Preview: Saturday, July 24


comicon 2010

SATURDAY, JULY 24

THE DAY YOUR FEET GET REALLY SORE

Luke Y Thompson covers Hollywood events at the Con for Deadline:

10:00-11:00 AM: Mad about MAD! I used to love Mad Magazine, but in the years since it started accepting advertising, … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE Hot Trailer: ‘Let Me In’

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