Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Social Network Looks to Repeat, Katherine Heigl and Secretariat Fight for Second Place

Josh Duhamel’s quizzical look is from watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. He Still can’t make heads or tails of it.

The box office is never a sure thing. It’s just like horse racing. Sometimes those who have the best odds at finishing first fall to the back of the pack after a Friday night. Word travels fast, and if it’s a bad movie the box office will reflect the change on how it performs on Saturday and Sunday. The top three films for this weekend’s box office were all neck and neck. Even the estimates that are being reported could change before now and Monday morning. With Monday being a holiday, what is third place now could easily wind up finishing second. As it is now, the first place finisher is a position that it knows all to well. Those vying to defeat the box office champion were a comedy seemed ripped from the pages of a TV script and a docudrama about the most famous horse not named Mister Ed.

From the studio that brought us Miracle, Remember the Titans and The Rookie, Secretariat looked to join those winning films. But the Randall Wallace drama, which had a theatrical trailer that made it look ever so epic, definitely underperformed. Even a week removed from a film that has gotten the rub from a “great picture” to an “event movie,” it deserved a much better fate. While I do think a lot of the reviews for The Social Network make it seem like the critics are PR men for Sony Pictures, thankfully our Scott Sawitz has brought levity to the situation. I may disagree with some of his points, but the way some critics seem to be falling over themselves in touting how great the picture is is overreaching just a bit.

Katherine Heigl, who seems to be phoning in her performances after the success she gained from TV’s Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up, a film she later criticized because how women were portrayed (sorry, that movie was the reason you were able to headline projects like 27 Dresses, sweetie), had to do something. Killers didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, and she needed a hit. In 2009, Sandra Bullock had The Proposal, All About Steve, and The Blind Side. Which of those three do people remember? For months the trailers for Life As We Know It seemed to be attached to every movie released in theatres. With the right amount of syrupy shots and sitcom shenanigans, it was apparent that this film was for those who are a slave to prime-time viewing. And by that I mean those that have an unhealthy diet of Brothers & Sisters and Two and a Half Men reruns. Apparently, viewers didn’t heed my warnings and treated themselves to a manipulative dramedy that only works in romantic comedy land.

Secretariat looked to be a prime candidate to fill the The Blind Side spot in this year’s Best Picture race. It still may, despite its poor showing this weekend. If it wanted to make a big push for awards talk it needed to lead the pack and not come from behind, something that the real Secretariat was good at. I’m sure people who watch Secretariat may soon revisit Gary Ross’ Oscar nominee Seabiscuit and compare the two films. Both star Oscar winners and nominees, but Ross had the much better visual eye as compared to Randall Wallace.

As the only film that screams “KIDS, COME SEE THIS!” is Zack Synder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Its domestic earnings may not be enough to recoup its budget and P&A costs, but the 3D is helping it maintain some kind of stability as the weeks go by. This weekend it had to compete with a new film looking for 3D screens, Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take. The allure of seeing a horror movie in 3D only works if there’s something flying your way. And this thrillfest didn’t have much visual dimension even with the extra “D.” While the movie may have only cost $25 million, it could have been much less if the studio didn’t want to convert it to 3D. With 22 3-D features coming in 2011, studios and/or theater chains need to be wise about the 3D surcharge. With an increased cost of $3 or $5 a ticket, that already alienates viewers enough. How many 3D bombs is it going to take to realize that fact? Still, money talks, and studios are more inclined to accept the grosses even if 3D only improves its performance by $5 or $10 million.

Warner Bros’ The Town eyes $80 million, but may have to wait next weekend to reach that mark. The heist drama may only be an outsider looking at all the potential Oscar nominees, but you never can tell with what Academy voters will remember come February. Seeing its stocks on the decline is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. After opening at number one a few weeks ago, it continues to drop and it will eventually be gone from the top ten discussion. Easy A continues to perform well, only seeing small drops in attendance. Close to $50 million, this smart comedy with Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson could very well make $60-65 million when it completes its theatrical run in the U.S.

Rounding out the top ten are two features that saw noticeable drops in attendance. The Renee-Zellwegger-thriller-that’s-been-sitting-on-the-shelf-for-much-too-long Case 39 lost 50.8% of its audience and finished in ninth. You Again dropped a staggering 57% to finish tenth. I shouldn’t say “staggering.” The movie was godawful, that’s why people avoided it like the plague this weekend.

The indie cinemas had eight new features get a release. Of those, the Al Pacino-Edward Norton thriller Stone opened on six screens and earned $73k; Nowhere Boy with Kick-Ass‘ Aaron Johnson opened on four screens and made a little over $56k; and the new doc, Inside Job, opened on two screens and earned $42k. Holdovers that are still performing well are Buried, which added another $200k to bring its total to $489k after three weeks, and the Davis Guggeinheim documentary Waiting for “Superman” which eclipsed the $1 million mark in the span of three weeks. Adding 69 screens to its theater count, the film had the best per-screen average this weekend of any film in the top 20. You can bet Paramount Vantage will be pushing this title in the Best Documentary category for Oscars.

Box Office Estimates taken from

1. The Social Network – $15.5 million ($46 million)
2. Life As We Know It – $14.6 million
3. Secretariat – $12.6 million
4. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – $7 million ($39 million)
5. My Soul to Take – $6.9 million
6. The Town – $6.4 million ($74 million)
7. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – $4.6 million ($44 million)
8. Easy A – $4.2 million ($48 million)
9. Case 39 – $2.6 million ($10 million)
10. You Again – $2.5 million ($21 million)

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