The Facebook movie made about 2.9 million new friends this weekend. They spent an estimated $23 million on tickets to see 'The Social Network,' which debuted at No. 1 and earned an easy box office victory.
As expected, the movie's positive word of mouth, strong reviews (including much Oscar buzz), youth-appeal subject matter, and canny marketing (like that wonderfully viral trailer) ensured plenty of moviegoers would "Like" the Facebook drama. Among director David Fincher's movies, 'The Social Network' ranks as his third best debut, after 'Panic Room' ($30.0 million) and 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' ($26.9 million).
'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole' finished a distant second but held up well in its sophomore weekend, losing just 33 percent of last week's business to finish with an estimated $10.9 million. Still the top choice among family fare and animated movies, 'Legend' has earned $30.0 million in two weeks.
Last week's champ, 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' fought for third place with the previous weekend's winner, 'The Town.' At this writing, 'Wall Street' had a slim edge, with an estimated $10.1 million to 'The Town's' $10.0 million, but those positions could reverse once final numbers are released on Monday. Both films slipped in competition with 'The Social Network' for the same adult-drama audience, but 'Wall Street' fell harder, losing 47 percent of last week's business, compared to just a 36 percent loss for 'The Town.' In two weeks, 'Wall Street' has reported earnings of $35.9 million, while 'The Town's' three-week total is $64.3 million.
Rounding out the top 5 was 'Easy A,' which earned another estimated $7 million. The smart teen comedy also slipped modestly, just 34 percent from last week, for a three-week total of $42.4 million.
The weekend's other two wide releases, horror dramas 'Let Me In' and 'Case 39,' were both big disappointments, fighting it out for sixth place with last week's underperforming comedy 'You Again.' According to estimates, all three films earned around five and a half million dollars, so their rankings could switch by the time Monday's final numbers are released.
Despite the presence of Renée Zellweger and Bradley Cooper, no one expected much from 'Case 39,' a film that had long been shelved in America, though it had been released over the past couple years in nearly every other country. Reviews suggested that the advance negative buzz was justified. But vampire tale 'Let Me In' earned positive reviews and was expected to sell $8 to $12 million worth of tickets to the same sort of audience that made a cult favorite of the original Swedish version, 2008's 'Let the Right One In.' Then again, that film grossed just $2.1 million in the U.S. and $11.2 million worldwide, so maybe even the Americanized remake was too cultish. Maybe the market wasn't big enough for two atmospheric, psychological horror films. Or maybe the literate, geeky young audience that 'Let Me In' sought had all gone to see 'The Social Network' instead.
The full top 10:
1. 'The Social Network,' $23.0 million (2,771 screens), new release
2. 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,' $10.9 million (3,575), $30.0 million total
3. 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' $10.1 million (3,597), $35.9 million
4. 'The Town,' $10.0 million (2,935), $64.3 million total
5. 'Easy A,' $7.0 million (2,974), $42.4 million
6.'You Again,' $5.6 million (2,548), $16.4 million
7. 'Case 39,' $5.4 million (2,211), new release
8. 'Let Me In,' $5.3 million (2,020), new release
9. 'Devil,' $3.7 million (2,392), $27.4 million
10. 'Alpha and Omega,' $3.0 million (2,303), $19.0 million
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.