LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Facebook film "The Social Network" captured the top spot at North American box offices for the second straight weekend in a lackluster frame that saw ticket sales for all films drop about 15 percent from last year.
A pair of newcomers, romantic comedy "Life As We Know It" and horse racing film "Secretariat," failed to make strong bids for No. 1, with the former coming in second at $14.6 million while the latter rounded out the top three with $12.6 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
"The Social Network," by contrast, took in $15.5 million with its tale of the popular website's founding, which has thrilled both critics and audiences and has Hollywood buzzing with awards talk for the David Fincher-directed movie.
The Columbia Pictures release played in just under 2,800 locations for a per-theater average of around $5,600. Ticket sales were down just about 30 percent, a small drop by Hollywood standards from last week's final haul of $22.4.
In two weeks in theaters, "Social Network" has taken in $46.1 million, which Columbia said covers its production cost, putting the film on a solid path to profitability.
Warner Bros' "Life As We Know It," starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as a pair of singles who take on the parenting of an orphaned baby, grabbed its $14.6 million in 3,150 locations, averaging just over $4,600 per theater.
"Secretariat," which tells how a woman broke into the ranks of the male-dominated horse racing industry behind a Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred, finished the weekend sweepstakes with $12.6 million in roughly 3,200 venues for $4,100 per theater.
The Disney studio said ticket sales beat their own pre-weekend estimates of between $10 million and $12 million, and the movie tended to appeal to audiences over 35 years-old and slightly more women than men.
Overall ticket sales for the top 12 movies slumped to $81.4 million from $95.6 million last year when the North American box offices got a jolt from romantic comedy "Couples Retreat." All movies this past weekend took in $93 million, down 15.3 percent from $109.8 million on the same weekend in 2009, according to figures from Hollywood.com Box Office.
Elsewhere, last week's No. 2 "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" from Warner Bros. slipped two notches to No. 4 with $7 million, pushing its cumulative ticket sales to $39.4 million after two weeks.
In the No. 5 spot was another newcomer, horror master Wes Craven's "My Soul to Take" in 3D. The movie slashed its way to $6.9 million in ticket sales and a per-theater average of around $2,700. It was distributed by Universal Pictures for specialty companies Rogue Pictures and Relativity Media.
Columbia Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment media division. Warner Bros. is a part of Time Warner Inc., and Disney is a unit of The Walt Disney Co. Universal Pictures is part of the NBC Universal media wing of General Electric Co.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Philip Barbara