Weekend Box Office (October 8 - 10, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Strong word-of-mouth allowed The Social Network to remain at number one at the North American box office and beat out three new releases. The Katherine Heigl comedy Life As We Know It and the Diane Lane drama Secretariat both scored decent debuts but neither was big enough to unseat the buzzworthy Facebook film which enjoyed the smallest second weekend drop of any film opening at number one this year. More bad news for Universal and the 3D movement came from the poor performance of the horror film My Soul to Take which barely debuted in the top five. Overall the marketplace was sluggish with the Top 20 taking in just $88M for a double-digit fall compared to last year.

David Fincher's critically acclaimed hit The Social Network held up incredibly well in its sophomore outing slipping only 31% to $15.5M, according to final studio figures, which was enough to stay on top of the charts. The Sony hit edged out Inception for the smallest second weekend decline for a top spot opener in 2010. The mind-bending blockbuster dipped by just 32% and has since reached a domestic total that is 4.6 times as much as its opening, although it had a better summer play period when mid-week grosses are bigger.

Still, the amazing reviews and the solid word-of-mouth from early Social Network audiences have paid off with the film selling itself now. Ongoing Oscar talk is also helping. The studio kept the playdate count steady at 2,771 locations and the average was an encouraging $5,576 which was still the best for any wide release out there despite it being in its second round. The ten-day tally is now $46M and a final gross in the $90-100M range is very possible.

Opening in second place was Katherine Heigl's latest comedy Life As We Know It which opened to $14.5M from 3,150 theaters for a decent $4,605 average. The PG-13 film about a man and a woman who hate each other forced to raise a one-year-old orphan played to a more female crowd and to young adults. It was a notch below the $15.8M debut of Heigl's last comedy Killers from June which paired her with Ashton Kutcher. Life saw the actress matched up with the lesser known Josh Duhamel. Reviews were negative, but that was no different from other recent films from the actress. With many broad dramas and female-skewing comedies, competition was tough for the poorly-titled pic.

Finishing in third place this weekend was Diane Lane's horse racing drama Secretariat which debuted to $12.7M from 3,072 theaters for a $4,132 average. The PG-rated film tells the uplifting tale of the 1973 Triple Crown winner as told through the eyes of its owner, played by Lane. Released by Disney, the film attracted good reviews and skewed towards an adult female audience which generally does not rush out on opening weekend. The studio hopes to play into November since the coming weeks are filled with mostly violent action and horror films not likely to play to moms or families. A solid A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore won't hurt either.

The 3D owl adventure Legend of the Guardians declined by only 37% in its second weekend to $6.9M ranking fourth for the frame. Warner Bros. has collected $39.3M in 17 days and could be headed for the neighborhood of $60M.

The Wes Craven name and the gimmick of 3D kills weren't enough to bring a sizable audience in for the veteran filmmaker's newest fright offering My Soul to Take which stumbled into fifth place with a dreadful $6.8M opening. Universal's latest misfire averaged a dismal $2,660 from 2,572 theaters and carried an R rating. It was not screened for the media before its release.

Studios are now learning the flip side of the 3D industry which not long ago was a cash cow. With a mediocre film, audiences reject the 3D version since it is too expensive and reject the 2D version too as being an inferior product. In the end, moviegoers end up skipping the film entirely during the theatrical run. Of the last seven 3D films, only one - Resident Evil: Afterlife - has become a big hit with all others either flopping for doing just mediocre numbers. A marathon of extra-dimensional films (with higher ticket prices) is heading into theaters in the coming weeks including this Friday's Jackass 3D, Saw 3D right before Halloween, and the animated Megamind a week later. Hollywood is hoping that ticket buyers find these brands more worthy of their dollars.

Ben Affleck's The Town proved to be a popular choice again slipping only 34% in its fourth frame to $6.4M and $73.8M total for Warner Bros. Financial flick Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps followed with $4.6M, down 54%, giving Fox $43.6M to date. Final grosses seem headed for $90-95M and $50-55M, respectively.

A trio of female-driven pics rounded out the top ten. The Emma Stone hit Easy A stayed strong with $4.3M, off 36%, for an impressive $48.2M sum for Sony. The Renée Zellweger flop Case 39 fell 50% in its second scare to $2.7M for Paramount. The ten day total is a weak $9.7M for the long-delayed fright flick. The multi-generational comedy You Again was close behind with $2.5M, down 56%, and a soft $20.8M for Buena Vista.

Stumbling into wide release and failing to crack the top ten was the Zach Galifianakis comedy It's Kind of a Funny Story which opened to $2M from a nationwide release in 742 theaters for a dismal $2,713 average. Focus opted for a wide release for the indie-feel pic but the starpower wasn't enough to excite a large paying audience. Also, mixed reviews from critics made it a tough sell too.

The Robert De Niro-Edward Norton jailhouse drama Stone enjoyed a good result in limited release with $75,766 from six houses for a strong $12,628 average. Reteaming nine years after their heist thriller The Score, the actors met with lukewarm reviews this time around.

The Weinstein Co. released the John Lennon pic Nowhere Boy this weekend to coincide with what would have been the popular singer's 70th birthday and generated a solid bow with $52,749 from just four theaters. Averaging $13,187 per site, the R-rated film earned good reviews from critics.

The top ten films grossed $76.9M which was down 16% from last year when Couples Retreat opened in the top spot with $34.3M; and down 5% from 2008 when Beverly Hills Chihuahua stayed at number one with $17.5M.

Compared to projections, Life As We Know It opened on target with my $15M forecast while Secretariat and My Soul to Take both opened below my respective forecasts of $16M and $9M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For reviews of The Social Network and Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Jackass 3D and Red both open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Oct 8 - 10 Oct 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Social Network $ 15,451,991 $ 22,445,653 -31.2 2,771 2 $ 5,576 $ 46,021,161 Sony
2 Life As We Know It 14,506,464 3,150 1 4,605 14,506,464 Warner Bros.
3 Secretariat 12,694,770 3,072 1 4,132 12,694,770 Buena Vista
4 Legend of the Guardians 6,888,019 10,887,429 -36.7 3,225 3 2,136 39,273,984 Warner Bros.
5 My Soul to Take 6,842,220 2,572 1 2,660 6,842,220 Universal
6 The Town 6,411,008 9,749,332 -34.2 2,720 4 2,357 73,847,527 Warner Bros.
7 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps 4,603,123 10,002,578 -54.0 2,829 3 1,627 43,644,701 Fox
8 Easy A 4,289,418 6,748,777 -36.4 2,847 4 1,507 48,228,201 Sony
9 Case 39 2,680,305 5,350,570 -49.9 2,212 2 1,212 9,650,005 Paramount
10 You Again 2,512,782 5,722,566 -56.1 2,332 3 1,078 20,769,995 Buena Vista
11 Let Me In 2,447,618 5,147,479 -52.5 2,042 2 1,199 9,171,419 Overture
12 It's Kind of a Funny Story 2,013,406 742 1 2,713 2,013,406 Focus
13 Devil 1,809,695 3,564,055 -49.2 1,442 4 1,255 30,046,530 Universal
14 Alpha and Omega 1,500,390 2,924,868 -48.7 1,616 4 928 21,018,064 Lionsgate
15 Resident Evil: Afterlife 1,255,120 2,784,775 -54.9 1,012 5 1,240 58,866,846 Sony
16 Waiting for "Superman" 630,863 408,873 54.3 103 3 6,125 1,405,814 Paramount
17 Toy Story 3 555,096 229,502 141.9 393 17 1,412 412,031,733 Buena Vista
18 Inception 492,311 904,208 -45.6 403 13 1,222 289,183,607 Warner Bros.
19 Takers 388,422 784,529 -50.5 412 7 943 56,773,203 Sony
20 Despicable Me 347,705 439,411 -20.9 353 14 985 246,557,455 Universal
Top 5 $ 56,383,464 $ 59,833,769 -5.8
Top 10 76,880,100 82,543,307 -6.9
Top 20 88,320,726 90,020,824 -1.9
Top 20 vs. 2009 88,320,726 102,592,595 -13.9

Last Updated: October 11, 2010 at 7:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.