Box office: 'The Social Network' on top again as 'Life as We Know It,' 'Secretariat' come up lame [updated]
Romantic comedy "Life as We Know It" was a close No. 2, opening with a so-so $14.6 million, while the inspirational horse-racing drama "Secretariat" trailed behind with a soft $12.6 million. People who went to both films came out very pleased, according to exit polls, giving studios hope that ticket sales will show life in the coming weeks.
As expected, the 3-D horror film "My Soul to Take" was a flop, collecting just $6.9 million.
Overall moviegoing was soft, as receipts were down a sizable 15% from Columbus Day weekend last year. That may have been because there were no new films that appealed to teenagers and young adults, who often drive the biggest box-office successes.
After the pictures opened to a good but not great $22.4 million last weekend, distributor Sony Pictures was hopeful that "The Social Network" would be a buzz-driven "must-see" film. However, some in Hollywood had questioned whether the picture would show any strength beyond the sophisticated audiences in big cities who made up most of the opening crowd.
Sony was proven right, however, as ticket sales dropped only 31% this weekend. Combined with healthy weekday grosses, the movie's total gross is now $46.1 million. "The Social Network" now appears likely to be a financial winner for Sony and its co-financier Relativity Media, which spent just under $40 million on production.
[Update, 12:40 p.m.: "The Social Network" also opened overseas in Germany, taking in a decent $2.5 million.]
Walt Disney Studios' aggressively marketed "Secretariat" started much slower out of the gate than the studio had hoped. Since early summer's blockbuster "Toy Story 3," Disney has seen a string of disappointments including "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "Step Up 3-D," and "You Again."
But there's reason for Disney to believe it won't be a short race for "Secretariat." Those who came loved the picture, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film drew a mostly older crowd that remembered its titular horse from its real Triple Crown victory in the 1970s, as 58% of attendees were over 35. With Disney promoting the film to religious audiences, it played best in smaller cities between the coasts, such as Salt Lake City and Denver. Movies that play well to adults and in smaller markets, such as "The Blind Side," can hang in for a long time at the box office.
"Secretariat" cost Disney $35 million to produce.
Warner has similar hopes for "Life as We Know It," which got an audience grade of A-. The romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel drew a primarily adult female crowd that overlapped somewhat with those who went to "Secretariat."
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures spent $38 million to make the film about a mismatched couple forced to raise a baby together. Those studios are hoping it's their movie, not "Secretariat," that will come out of the weekend with the strongest word-of-mouth and, like "The Social Network," have a small drop at the box office next weekend.
There's no chance of that for "My Soul," which not only had a weak start, but disappointed audiences who gave it a CinemaScore of D. The first new release from horror-meister Wes Craven in five years would have done much worse if not for higher ticket prices from 3-D theaters, which made up 86% of its total receipts.
Relativity Media's Rogue Pictures label spent $25 million to make the movie, which was distributed by Universal Pictures.
In limited release, comedic drama "It's Kind of a Funny Story," which played at 742 theaters in 120 cities, opened to a weak $2.1 million. Universal's specialty films label Focus Features had higher hopes for the well-reviewed film co-starring Zach Galifianakis about a teenager who checks himself into a mental institution. Playing in a number of college towns, the small crowds who did come to "Funny Story" were primarily under 25.
"Inside Job," a documentary about the financial crisis of 2008, did the best among films in just a handful of locations, opening to a solid $42,017 at two theaters in New York.
The Robert De Niro-Edward Norton drama "Stone" started off with a so-so $73,000 at six theaters in Los Angeles and New York. British drama "Tamara Drewe" launched with a weak $19,282 at four theaters in the same pair of cities.
[Update, 12:40 p.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com, along with foreign grosses when available.
2. "Life As We Know It" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): Opened to $14.6 million.
3. "Secretariat" (Disney): Opened to $12.6 million.
4. "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $7 million on its third weekend, down 36%. $11.3 million in 35 foreign markets. Domestic total: $39.4 million. International total: $25.8 million.
5. "My Soul to Take" (Relativity/Rogue/Universal): Opened to $6.9 million.
6. "The Town" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $6.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 35%. $4 million overseas in 12 foreign markets. Domestic total: $73.8 million. International total: $18.8 million.
7. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (Fox): $4.6 million on its third weekend, down 54%. Domestic total: $43.7 million.
8. "Easy A" (Sony Screen Gems): $4.2 million on its fourth weekend, down 38%. Domestic total: $48.1 million.
9. "Case 39" (Paramount): $2.6 million on its second weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $9.6 million.
10. "You Again" (Disney): $2.5 million on its third weekend, down 57%. Domestic total: $20.7 million. International total (Russia only): $3.2 million.]
-- Ben Fritz
Top photo: Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network." Credit: Merrick Morton / Sony Pictures. Bottom photo: Diane Lane, Otto Thorwarth and Margo Martindale in "Secretariat." Credit: John Bramley / Disney