Sony's Facebook pic scores $23 mil in first frame

Sony’s “The Social Network” made enough friends, especially in New York and L.A., to top the weekend’s domestic B.O., earning an estimated $23 million at 2,771 locations.

Going into the weekend, Sony said it hoped for a debut at $20 million. But with widespread publicity surrounding the pic’s Facebook roots and site founder Mark Zuckerberg, some B.O. pundits aimed slightly higher, with expectations of broader appeal in other markets.

Femme auds accounted for 53% of the pic’s opening weekend, while moviegoers 25 and over made up 55%.

“Social Network” scored an overall B+ CinemaScore rating — a less-than-stellar appraisal considering its strong reviews and a 100% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics group.

Still, the pic’s older skew should mean a healthy run over the long haul, according to Sony, as adults usually shy away from opening weekend.

The studio also pointed to extraordinary word of mouth and strong holds from recent adult titles like “The Town” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” as hopeful signs for a lengthy fall run.

“The demo breakdown bodes really well for this film,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to be around for a very long time.”

“Social Network” easily beat the frame’s other wide releases: “Case 39″ and “Let Me In.”

The two horror pics topped out at just north of $5 million each, landing near the bottom of the top 10 behind a crop of heady holdovers. “Case 39″ and “Let Me In” entered the weekend with modest expectations from Paramount Vantage and Overture, respectively.

With only one wide release debuting in the top five, the weekend saw a considerable drop overall, down about 10% vs. the same frame last year, which had three high-ranking new entries.

The weekend’s other fresh horror entry, New Films Cinema-distribbed “Chain Letter,” had an aggressive rollout at 406 engagements, but its less-than-stellar weekend estimate of $143,318 meant an average of just $363 per screen.

Another notable specialty title was Par Vantage’s education reform-themed docu “Waiting for Superman,” which expanded to 34 engagements after debuting last weekend with an outstanding $34,758 per-screen average from four locations. In its second outing, “Superman” added an estimated $407,000 — boosted by group sales in markets like Washington, D.C. — for a per-screen average of $11,971. Domestic totals stand at $600,000 through the weekend.

Adult-targeted pics typically drive the box office in the fall, both domestically and abroad.

In addition to fresher holdovers like “The Town” and “Wall Street,” Warner Bros.’ adult summer pic “Inception” has continued nicely into the fall season. Pic, which fell from the domestic top 10 rankings for the first time in 12 weeks, crossed the $500 million benchmark this weekend in foreign B.O. receipts. Stateside cume of $288.4 million contributes to a boffo $791.6 million worldwide.

Directed by David Fincher from an Aaron Sorkin script, “Social Network” centers on Zuckerberg (Jessie Eisenberg) during the time he invents Facebook, as well as subsequent lawsuits filed against him by fellow Facebook inventors. Andrew Garfield also stars as co-founder Eduardo Saverin, with Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara co-starring.

The film is based on an unauthorized book “The Accidental Billionaires” that portrays Zuckerberg in an unflattering light. Leading up to its release, Zuckerberg made an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to donate $100 million to Newark schools, which was described by some media as a PR stunt. Zuckerberg has decided not to publicly pan the pic, which also received a highly publicized bow Sept. 24 as the opening night film for the New York Film Fest.

And while the buzz surrounding “Social Network” may have helped boost figures in New York and L.A., the film has yet to prove itself in other Stateside markets. Sony will debut the pic overseas starting next weekend in Germany.

Like “Social Network,” Overture’s vampire remake “Let Me In,” based on the Swedish-language “Let the Right One In,” has earned critical acclaim, appealing primarily to female auds (53%). The film, however, underperformed with an estimated $5.3 million from 2,021 locations.

“We are disappointed that ‘Let Me In’ didn’t fare better at the box office but are hoping due to the amazing critical response and word of mouth, that it finds its audience in the weeks ahead,” said an Overture rep.

“Let Me In” received a C+ CinemaScore rating, which Overture attributed, in part, to younger auds’ expectations of more generic horror titles. Pic played overwhelming young, with 70% of auds under 35.

Overture also described the film as a marketing challenge, with children at the center of a horror story. Kid thesps Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee star.

“Case 39,” from Par Vantage, fared slightly better with its core demo of femmes 25 and over, scoring a B- rating. The film is estimated to have earned $5.4 million at 2,392.

After the pic was shelved for two years, Par decided to launch it when the movie played positively at test screenings. Renee Zellweger stars as a social worker who takes in a troubled girl, played by Jodelle Ferland.

“Case 39″ and “Let Me In” debuted in the Nos. 7 and 8 spots, respectively, though those rankings could switch when studios release their revised figures today.

Both pics launched behind a list of holdovers led by Warner’s 3D toon “Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole,” which dropped just 33% in its second outing for a weekend estimate of $10.9 million. Likely boosted by the film’s 3D format, “Legend” fared better than fellow soph-sesh entry “Wall Street,” which held slightly better than expected, down 47% from its opening weekend. “Wall Street” took an estimated $10.1 million for a cume of $35.9 million. Domestic totals for “Legend” stand at $30 million.

Entering its third frame, Warner’s “The Town” fell 36%, grossing $10 million for a cume of $64.3 million, while “Easy A” continued to hold well for Sony, dropping a slight 34%, with an estimated weekend take of $7 million. Budgeted at just $8 million, “Easy A” has cumed a stellar $42.4 million domestically.

Disney’s fellow femme-targeted “You Again” also showed off strong legs, with an estimated $5.6 million, dropping 34% in its second frame. Cume is $16.4 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were horror pic “Devil,” from Universal, and Lionsgate’s 3D toon “Alpha and Omega,” earning an estimated $3.7 million and $3 million, respectively. Both in their third outing, “Devil” fell a notable 44% for a domestic cume of $27.4 million, while “Alpha,” down 37%, likely benefited from 3D and a dearth of family-friendly titles. Toon’s domestic total is roughly $19 million.

On the international front, Warner’s “Legend” expanded to several key territories, including Russia and Australia, where the toon grossed $1.7 million on 347 screens. “Legend” is expected to debut on top in Russia, with an estimated $2.3 million on 668 screens. Overall, toon grossed $8.3 million from 21 markets, bringing its global cume to $9.9 million.

Also expanding to major markets was Fox’s “Wall Street” sequel, which launched in France, Russia and Mexico. French auds shelled out an estimated $2 million, making it the pic’s top-grossing overseas territory. Foreign totals for “Wall Street” stand at $22.3 million.

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