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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/ 4/2010

A somewhat strong 'Social Network' at the weekend box office

By Jen Chaney

Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg? America will see your movie now. (Columbia Pictures/AP)

"The Social Network" reaches its practically preordained status as the No. 1 movie in America, the owls remain in their second-place perch and Renee Zellweger and a pair of young vampires fail to scare up business.

Find out the details in this week's box office rundown.

All that positive buzz around "The Social Network" paid off: the-birth-of-Facebook story earned $23 million over the weekend. And despite the fact that it's about a phenomenon created by the young, the audience skewed old-ish -- according to the Associated Press, 55 percent of the "Social Network" audience was over 25. Of course, $23 million isn't an out-of-the-park, blockbuster opener, asAnthony D'Alessandro notes in Anne Thompson's blog. In fact, a year ago on the same weekend, another Jesse Eisenberg release -- "Zombieland" -- did a bit more business ($24.7 million), and the overall box office was up by nine percent compared to the first October weekend in 2010.

"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" didn't move from its No. 2 spot, earning $10.8 million. With a total gross of $30 million, Zack Snyder's animated effort already has outearned the season's only other kiddie release: "Alpha and Omega," which tumbled to tenth place. Last week's No. 1 film, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" ended the weekend in third place, with a projected additional $10.1 million in Gordon Gekko's greedy pockets.

The most interesting non-success story of the weekend involves the two newest wide horror releases. "Case 39" -- the Renee Zellweger/Bradley Cooper thriller that wrapped way back in 2006, had its release date delayed for two years and wasn't screened in advance for critics -- had a slightly (slightly) less distressing opening weekend than "Let Me In," a remake that boasts an 87 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and falls into the (allegedly) always lucrative vampire genre. Projected total for "Case"? $5.35 million, putting it in seventh place. For "Let Me In"? $5.3 million and an eighth-place finish. Of course, these numbers could change a tad once final figures are released later today.

This is a particularly depressing outcome for "Let Me In," a remake of "Let the Right One In" that honors the original while also carving out some chilling, smartly conceived plot developments of its own. To put things into perspective, its $5.3 million still exceeds the $2.1 million that the Swedish "Let the Right One In" made during its North American release, but it also represents a much softer opening than the ones that greeted other recent, non-"Twilight" fare, from "Cirque de Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" (which debuted with $6.2 million), to "Daybreakers" ($15.1 million), to "Vampires Suck" ($12.2 million). It's tempting to blame the R-rating, but "Daybreakers" was R-rated, too. I think the problem was a combination of kids under 17 not being able to buy tickets, the fact that the title didn't stick in people minds (or, perhaps, reminded them to much of "Never Let Me Go") and the excessive media focus on all things "Social Network." "Let Me In" simply got lost.

Will "The Social Network" stay on top next weekend? Or will Katherine Heigl's "Life as We Know It," the feel-good horse-racing drama "Secretariat" or another new horror entry, "My Soul to Take," bump it down a notch or two? Make a prediction by voting in our poll.

By Jen Chaney  | October 4, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  
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