September 30, 2010 / 11:41 PM / in 7 years

Moviegoers will friend "The Social Network"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Much like Facebook, “The Social Network” should launch notably and impress even more over the longer haul, though it’s a bit unclear which age group will support the drama most fervently.

The Sony saga of Facebook’s Harvard origins should top the domestic box office with as much as $30 million this weekend. But with awards-season buzz about the David Fincher-directed picture already building, a long and lucrative theatrical run could be in the offing, provided that “Network” attracts a broad swath of moviegoers.

Most dramas play best with patrons ages 25 or older, but “Network” -- while showing good prerelease traction with all demos -- is tracking best with younger men. Chalk that up to its thematic hook, but the related question is how the oldest moviegoers will respond.

So far, there has been near-unanimous positive reaction from critics to the well-paced depiction of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial early days on the road to online glory. But creative elements including Trent Reznor’s aggressively techno soundtrack and less inherent interest in the subject matter would seem to represent obstacles to overcome in luring older patrons.

Also, the cast comes from Young Hollywood. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, with Justin Timberlake cast as Napster founder Sean Parker.

In any event, Sony is well-positioned to make out like a bandit on “Network,” whose negative cost is estimated at less than $40 million.

“The picture is resonating with all facets of the moviegoing population,” Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. “It also is a picture that’s going to be around for a long time.”

Two other movies opening wide Friday won’t provide much competition. Paramount Vantage’s Renee Zellweger starrer “Case 39” and Overture’s vampire thriller “Let Me In” should each open in the high-single-digit millions.

“Case” packs about $17 million in foreign lucre since opening late year. Zellweger plays a social worker trying to help a mysterious young girl. Audiences are expected to skew older and female.

“Let Me In,” starring Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass”), should skew significantly young. Overture produced “Let Me In” for less than $20 million.

Elsewhere among the weekend’s holdover pics, pundits will get to see if Warner Bros. has a big or little problem on its hands with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga‘Hoole.” Produced for an estimated $79 million with Australian tax credits, “Ga‘Hoole” underperformed with a $16.1 million bow last weekend. Last weekend’s champion, Fox’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” earned a good-but-not-great $19 million.

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