'Social' No. 1 for 2nd straight weekend
'Life,' 'Secretariat' debut at No. 2 and 3, respectivelyORLANDO -- Disney's "Secretariat" may not prove a hopeless nag, but it certainly wasn't a quick-starting thoroughbred in its domestic debut as a sturdy rival ended up in the winner's circle after a lackluster box-office derby.
Sony's "The Social Network" fell a modest 31% in its second outing to nab the weekend laurels, with a $15.5 million performance yielding $46.1 million in cumulative coin and bolstering hopes of a leggy run by the critically lauded legal drama. Warner Bros.' romantic comedy "Life as We Know It" -- starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as a couple contrived via involuntary parenthood -- adopted an estimated $14.6 million to place second in its opening frame, while "Secretariat" was third with $12.6 million.
Whether that puts the high profile horse-racing drama in the money is another matter.
"Secretariat" was produced for just $32 million, but as a major movie release it also carries hefty marketing expenses. Disney wouldn't disclose the costs of its campaign, though a studio insider put marketing outlays at $30 million-$35 million, or notably below the Hollywood norm.
In many cases, a movie reaches the break-even point once its U.S. and Canadian box office matches production costs. If it fetches a similar sum abroad, that equates to exhibitors' split of receipts, while ancillary revenue from home entertainment and TV distribution can be viewed as a means of recouping marketing expenses.
Picture profitability aside, Disney needs a decent theatrical ride with "Secretariat" to salvage corporate pride. So execs now will look to the next couple of weekends to pad the film's poor opening stake.
The Burbank studio hasn't had much recent luck at the multiplexes, except for summer's Pixar-produced "Toy Story 3." Disney will screen the 3D animated family-fantasy "Tangled" for exhibitors attending the annual ShowEast confab in Orlando on Monday night.
Directed by Randall Wallace ("We Were Soldiers"), "Secretariat" stars Diane Lane as the 1973 Triple Crown winner's middle-aged owner Penny Chenery. Opening audiences were comprised 65% of couples, while females represented 54% of the PG pic's support, and 60% of patrons were aged 35 or older.
"The people who have seen it loved it," Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane said. "So we're going to hope that it will have legs."
"Secretariat" lagged its historical comparison in its first frame. Universal's 2003 racing drama "Seabiscuit" debuted with $20.9 million and grossed $120 million overall domestically.
Rated PG-13 and helmed by Greg Berlanti ("The Broken Hearst Club"), "Life" was produced for an estimated $35 million and was co-financed by Village Roadshow.
Its opening audiences skewed 68% female, with 70% of patrons aged 25 or older.
"We had a nice weekend," Warners exec vp distribution Jeff Goldstein said.
Two other movies opened wide during the weekend to dismal results.
Rogue Pictures' Wes Craven-penned and –helmed 3D horror pic "My Soul to Take" took fifth place on the frame, scaring up just $6.9 million despite premium ticket prices in more than 1,900 locations playing the R-rated pic in 3D. Its 3D venues contributed a whopping 86% of opening grosses.
Universal distributed Stateside and Alliance in Canada, attracting audiences comprised 54% of females and 52% of moviegoers aged 25 or older. "Soul" was produced for an estimated $25 million.
Also, Uni's specialty division Focus Features unspooled "It's Kind of a Funny Story" -- a dramatic comedy rated PG-13 and starring Zach Galifianakis -- in a barely wide 742 theaters and grossed $2 million, or a disappointing $2,712 per venue. Support came 54% from females and skewed 52% to patrons under age 25.
Collectively, the pre-Columbus Day weekend's top 10 movies rang up $77.3 million, or almost 17% less than top performers in a comparable frame last year, Rentrak said. (Though a federal holiday, Columbus Day isn't considered part of the box-office weekend, which remains a three-day session.)
Among the weekend's limited bows, Overture unspooled "Stone" -- a dramatic thriller starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich -- in four New York locations and two in L.A. and grossed $73,000, or a solid $12,167 per site. The R-rated pic represents the last Overture release before its operations are swept up into Relativity branding.
Sony Pictures Classics bowed the Stephen Frears-directed "Tamara Drewe," an R-rated comedy starring Gemma Arterton, in two locations in New York and two in L.A and grossed $19,282, or an acceptable $4,820 per site.
The always-prolific specialty distributor also debuted financial-crisis documentary "Inside Job" in a pair of New York theaters to gross $42,017, or an auspicious $21,008 per venue.
The Weinstein Co. opened "Nowhere Boy," a biopic about John Lennon's boyhood days, with $56,065 from four playdates. That represented a tuneful $14,016 per engagement.
Looking ahead, two pics open wide on Friday – Paramount's youth-seeking 3D threequel "Jackass 3D" and Summit Entertainment's adult-targeting action comedy "Red."