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‘Social Network’ Hopes to Friend Up $25M+ at Weekend Box Office

David Fincher’s Facebook film should have strong start; Par Vantage’s “Case 39” and Overture’s “Let Me In” add to pre-Halloween horror glut

Having built his A-list directing acumen on the backs of brutal street fighters, merciless home-invasion robbers, maniacal serial killers and mysterious Southerners who age backwards, David Fincher wants us to buy tickets to watch Ivy Leaguers battle each other in arbitration hearings.

And it's not even in 3D.

But based on killer reviews and strong pre-release tracking, Fincher's "The Social Network" should have no problem getting moviegoers to friend up at the domestic box office this weekend.

Tracking services predict the PG-13-rated true-to-lifer about how Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook — and screwed a bunch of classmates in the process — will exceed $25 million, with Sony's estimation falling slightly below that.

Either way, "Social Network" should easily win a weekend that also features the wide debut of two new horror films, Paramount Vantage's "Case 39," with Renee Zellweger, and Overture/Relativity's foreign-vampire-film adaptation "Let Me In."

Also factoring into the mix will be week two of Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" for Fox.

But the real heat is on "Social Network," which — if not for a few fringe-ish critics — could have had an all-too-rare 100 percent score on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Co-financed by Sony and Relativity Media for under $40 million, based on a book by Ben Bezrich, scripted by the fast-typing fingers of Aaron Sorkin, and starring Jesse Eisenberg as the mercurial 19-year-old Internet-visionary Zuckerberg, "Social Network" will star out in 2,771 North American theaters … and with plenty of Academy Award aspirations.

For his part, Fincher — who's filming "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" for Sony in Europe — has had his share of movies pop nicely their first weekend at the box office.

His high-water mark came in 2002, with Jodie Foster thriller "Panic Room" starting out to $30.1 million. And two years ago, Brad Pitt film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" — which also debuted in the fourth quarter with Oscar hopes — premiered to $26.9 million.

"Let Me In," meanwhile, is an adaptation of the Swedish youthful vampire drama "Let the Right One In," which drew critical raves — and about $2.1 million in North American box office — when it was imported back in 2008.

Directed by Matt Reeves, creator of TV's "Felicity" back in the day, and rated R, "Let Me In" has no surfeit of buzz, and will probably need vampires to fly out of the ears of moviegoers before it cracks the $10 million opening mark.

Shot for under $20 million, it has lacked strong marketing support — in fact, that was the lighting-rod issue that led to the departure of Chris McGurk over the summer, with the former Overture chief arguing unsuccessfully with his boss, Starz president Chris Albrecht, to get more promotional dollars for the film.

McGurk and his No. 2, Danny Rossett, were ultimately pushed out, and Overture's marketing and distribution operations were sold to Relativity.

"Case 39's" debut Friday, meanwhile, caps a four-year odyssey of production and distribution delays, which started on Halloween 2006 when the R-rated horror movie's Vancouver set was destroyed by fire.

The film, which stars Zellweger as a social worker who comes across a demonic young client, was produced for $27 million, and has already grossed $17 million abroad. 

With the film debuting in 2,200 North American theaters this weekend, Paramount officials are projecting a gross of around $6 million.

Meanwhile, among a flurry of limited releases, Lionsgate's "Buried" will undergo a modest expansion, while Magnolia's adaptation of economics book "Freakonomics" will debut in about 20 theaters.