I can’t remember another weekend like this past one at the box office, which couldn’t be a clearer indication of the difference between how movies aimed at teenagers and very young adults play compared to how movies with more sophisticated appeal do. Look at this:
• Paranormal Activity 2, at No. 2, sank just under 60 percent over its second weekend
• Jackass 3D, at No. 4 sank just over 60 percent over its third weekend
• Red, at No. 2, sank only 29 percent over its third weekend
• Secretariat, at No. 6, also sank just 29 percent over its fourth weekend
• The Social Network, at No. 7, sank 38 percent over its fifth weekend
• Life as We Know It, at No. 8, dropped only 34 percent over its fourth weekend
• The Town, at No. 9, was down only 28 percent over its seventh weekend
• Conviction, at No. 10, was up more than 500 percent, but that’s because it expanded from 55 screens to 565.
Saw 3D, at No. 1, was the only new movie this weekend (and watch it drop, I’m betting, more than 60 percent next weekend). Of the rest of the top 10, nothing that was aimed at an adult audience dropped more than 50 percent; Hereafter was closest, dropping 47 percent in its third week. (There were no movies in the top 10 aimed at little kids and familes.) The two movies aimed at teens and college-age young adults had opened big, but started dropping fast as soon as word of mouth spread that even the target audience isn’t quite appreciating these films as much as they might.
There’s no need to feel sorry for Paranormal Activity 2 and Jackass 3D: they’ve each earned tidy profits, and will earn more still. But the bulk of those takings came over their debut weekends, when they roped in audiences drawn by hype — neither film screened for critics, and they didn’t need to, because they are the very definition of criticproof: those target audiences wouldn’t have paid any attention to critics anyway. I suppose it’s too much to hope that teens and college students will ever smarten up and realize they’re being played for saps by Hollywood, like Lucy with the football.