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Box office preview: 'Social Network' to top crop of new releases

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the-social-network-eisenburgImage Credit: Merrick MortonThe media, and I include Entertainment Weekly in this group, has practically ordained The Social Network as the Best. Movie. Ever. So it’s little surprise that Sony is trying to tamp down expectations on what is essentially an adult drama centered on a very popular subject matter. Yes, it’s got the A-list pedigree of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin and Oscar talk for actors Jesse Eisenberg and our new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield. Plus, Justin Timberlake’s buzz factor doesn’t hurt either. Still, it’s a big question as to how all the positive press — and reviews — translates into box office. Regardless of how big it opens, I expect to be talking about The Facebook Movie for another few months, at the very least. And for this frame, the film is destined to land on top for sure. Its primary competition is last weekend’s top grosser Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and two new horror releases: Let Me In, the artful adaptation of the Swedish horror film from director Matthew Reeves’ (Cloverfield), and Case 39, the long-shelved horror flick starring real-life couple Renée Zellweger and Bradley Cooper. Neither are expected to do much this weekend. Read on for my predictions of the top five.

1. The Social Network: $28 million

Studio sources are predicting $20 million, but they’re likely underselling to maximize positive response to a much higher number. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 97 percent fresh rating, and Flickster has it at its highest want-to-see rating of all new releases. In fact, the movie-going site indicates that the under-25 crowd is anticipating the film just as much as adults. With all that interest, the film could gross upwards of $30 million, but I’m going to be conservative in my guess today.

2. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps: $10 million

The Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf-starrer is destined to hit tough times its sophomore session due to competition from Social Network. I’ll go with a 45 percent drop for the Oliver Stone-directed sequel, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the fall-off is steeper.

3. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole: $8 million

Let’s go with a 50 percent drop for Zack Snyder’s owl movie. Sure, there’s not much out there for kids right now, but there’s always the option of not going to the movies. I just don’t believe the movie with the impossible title is going to connect any more with audiences than it already has.

4. Let Me In: $8 million

This Chloë Moretz-starring horror flick is also scoring brilliantly high reviews. Perhaps high enough to give it an edge over the owls. It is, however, R-rated, and the film’s marketing spend isn’t nearly as robust as those of the bigger studios. But positive word-of-mouth will surely be great enough to recover the film’s close-to-$20 million budget.

5. The Town: $7.5 million

Ben Affleck has already racked in over $50 million after The Town‘s two weekends in release. And last weekend, the Boston-set heist drama lost only 35 percent of its value. My guess is it falls 50 percent this frame, only because of the competition from The Social Network.

Also bowing this frame:

Case 39 will open in around 2,000 theaters but grosses aren’t expected to be big. This movie was at one time destined straight-to-video, but that changed when the marketers at Paramount thought they could make hay of it in theaters. Not sure releasing it on the same weekend as Let Me In was the way to go.