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This Week In Movies – “Secretariat,” “Social Network,” “My Soul To Take”

By Pete Hammond

HollywoodNews.com: With only a third place “show” of just $12.6 million perhaps the disappointing box office returns of “Secretariat” this weekend don’t quite emulate the spectacular performance of the 1973 Triple Crown winning title star of Disney’s movie but this is one race that may not be over. It’s clearly a crowd pleaser (albeit an older crowd pleaser), but somehow the marketing of the film only managed to bring in an aging audience (58% were over the age of 35) who notoriously take their own sweet time in getting out to the movies. The fact that the Randall Wallace (“Braveheart,” “We Were Soldiers”) – directed movie received a stirring A Cinemascore rating from opening night filmgoers would indicate strong word of mouth should be taking place. In fact at the film’s pre-opening weekend sneak previews the studio found “Secretariat” delivered some of the highest satisfaction scores in their entire history, so despite the stumble out of the gate there may still be a victory lap if Disney can keep it alive. I screened the film for my KCET Cinema Series last week and it got one of the most rapturous responses I have seen in nearly a decade of doing them. At any rate producer Mark Ciardi tells me the modestly budgeted film was brought in for considerably less than the similar 2003 box office success, “Seabiscuit” and still manages to look even better with state-of-the-art camera and sound work so even if it ends up a box office loser, the bite shouldn’t be too big for the studio which insisted on the frugal budget before greenlighting the picture. The jury’s out on this one.

Another new entry which fell to the second weekend supremacy of “The Social Network” which maintained the top spot with an estimated $15.5 million and a 10 day total of $46 million is the Warner Bros. dramedy, “Life As We Know” It starring Katharine Heigl and Josh Duhamel and directed by TV vet, Greg Berlanti (“Everwood,” “Brothers And Sisters”). For a while it even looked like this could be number one but it faded a bit and ended up a fairly close second with $14.6 million, but like “Secretariat” a candidate for strong word of mouth in the weeks ahead with its A minus Cinemascore indicating the crowd it drew liked what they saw even if the majority of critics didn’t, witness an abysmal 29% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

That’s better at least than Rogue/ Relativity’s massive 3D horror flop, “My Soul To Take,” which couldn’t even crack $7 million, drew a “D” Cinemascore and garnered a terrible 8% positive RT score (Universal wisely kept it from critics before opening). Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. That’s three horror movies in a row , including last week’s “Case 39” (fairly) and “Let Me In” (unfairly) that have gone down in flames and we are only three weeks away from Halloween. For this normally reliable genre that’s the REALLY scary statistic. Then there was the case of Zach Galifianakis’ latest “comedy”, “It’s Kind Of a Funny Story” which flopped on a relatively wide break of about 700 screens and proved Zach is ‘kind of funnier’ when he has a hangover. Overall boxoffice was down again this week by about 15%, a disturbing trend this fall that at least one top film executive told me on Friday should send shivers down the spines of the studios as it doesn’t look like there’s much ahead to change the equation, even “Harry Potter” may not be enough. It’s odd because if we are to believe the polling, audiences seem to be liking most of the films they have been seeing but clearly the big mass crowds just aren’t coming out in any significant way.

There’s always next week. Then again that’s when we get “Jackass 3D!”

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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