Is it a serious adult drama, or a college audience buzz pic? The opening weekend performance of Sony’s “The Social Network” seems to have given edge to the adult drama camp, with the film seeing most of its ticket sales in areas concentrated around New York and L.A.
The good news? Adult dramas like “The Town” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” are holding well at the box office, showing potential for long playing time into the fall.
According to B.O. observers, the film’s reception outside of New York and L.A. is typical of the challenges adult dramas face in less urban areas.
Jeff Blake, Sony chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution, described the film’s fall launch date as a challenge, since bows in the 20s are the norm during the season.
“The trade-off is that if you have a good movie it will hold better,” Blake said.
“Social Network” is the year’s best reviewed film, with a 100% rating among top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet auds weren’t quite as enthusiastic, giving the pic a B+ CinemaScore rating.
Blake said the film should be able to capitalize on those reviews, continuing to play strongly once word of mouth develops.
The film played best to female moviegoers aged 25 and over, but also saw strong turnouts of younger moviegoers. Pre-weekend tracking had suggested “Social Network,” which wound up with $22.4 million, would land near the mid-20s.
While pic saw strong turnouts in cities including Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Boston, auds in smaller markets appeared to be opting for more traditional popcorn fare.
“Dramas in general don’t necessarily catch on in smaller theaters on the first wind,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer. “It’s something that has to permeate, and I think that’s why you see such a high multiple for films like this.”
Warner Bros.’ “The Town,” also drawing a predominantly adult aud in its third frame, bowed with $23.8 million and held steady last week, benefiting from strong word of mouth and positive reviews.
The same goes for 20th Century Fox’s “Wall Street,” which has cumed $35.8 million in two weeks. Domestic totals for “The Town” stand at $64 million.
While R-rated “The Town” was expected to skew older, exhibs weren’t sure how the “Social Network” aud would skew. Some theaters ran trailers with the pic for upcoming Sony titles “How Do You Know” and “The Tourist,” both of which should play well with older femmes.
Jeff Logan, prexy of South Dakota-based chain Logan Luxury Theatres, noted that the film posed certain challenges in marketing strategies, particularly trailer placement.
“We had a hard time trying to figure out where to spend our marketing dollar,” Logan said. “Factual dramas are always a tough sell in smaller cities, and this one kind of falls into that category.”
Fandango reported that a strong 44% of its ticket sales Monday were for “Social Network.”