David Fincher's saga about personality clashes and legal feuds among the website's founders took in $15.5 million to remain the No. 1 film for a second straight weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Released by Sony, "The Social Network" raised its 10-day total to $46.1 million.
Debuting a close second with a so-so $14.6 million weekend was the Warner Bros. romance "Life as We Know It," starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as sparring guardians to an orphaned girl.
Disney's horse-racing drama "Secretariat," starring Diane Lane, also had a so-so debut, coming in at No. 3 with $12.6 million.
Opening a weak No. 5 with $7 million was Wes Craven's serial killer thriller "My Soul to Take," released by Rogue Pictures.
In narrower release, the Focus Features tale "It's Kind of a Funny Story" opened at No. 12 with a slim $2 million. The movie stars Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis in the story of a teen who checks himself into a psychiatric ward.
With great reviews, audience word-of-mouth and Academy Awards buzz, "The Social Network" saw its business hold up well, dropping a scant 31 percent from opening weekend.
"It's the type of picture that people can't take their eyes off of," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony. "Just about everyone has said to me that it's a movie they want to see again, as well. This picture is going to be around for a long time."
"The Social Network" dominated a field of newcomers and holdovers fighting largely for fans 25 and older, a segment of the audience less likely to jam into theaters than those in their teens and early 20s.
"There's probably a bit of an overabundance," said Chuck Viane, head of distribution at Disney.
Like other distributors, though, Disney was counting on positive reactions from older fans to keep "Secretariat" on track in subsequent weeks. Along with Sony's "The Social Network," Warner Bros. has maintained strong business for Ben Affleck's heist thriller "The Town," which took in $6.4 million this weekend and raised its total to $73.8 million after four weeks.
"Typically, this should be a horse race, but if what's happening this fall continues, this is probably going to play out more like a marathon for all of us," Viane said.
Female crowds made up just over two-thirds of the audience for "Life as We Know It," according to Warner Bros. That segment of the audience often holds up well in the weeks following a movie's debut.
"Yes, there is a whole bunch of stuff for adults this year," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner general sales manager. "But the female audience goes for a certain level, and for us, I think we kind of hit that. I think we'll hang around a while."
While studio executives are talking optimistically, overall business is lagging, with revenues down most weekends since early September.
Total receipts came in at about $93 million, down 15 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Couples Retreat" led the market with a $34.3 million debut, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
"It's a great time for the adult drama genre," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "But if you're just tapping into the over-30 crowd, you're going to be fine, but you're not going to see the sort of business you'd get with a big, populist movie like `Couples Retreat' a year ago. That appealed to everybody, the date crowd and all that."
Paramount has a potential hit for younger fans this coming weekend with "Jackass 3D," the latest installment of crazy stunts and pranks from Johnny Knoxville and company.
Several films opened well in limited release. Sony Pictures Classics' documentary "Inside Job," which examines the 2008 economic crisis, took in $42,017 in two theaters, averaging a strong $21,009 a cinema. That compared to an average of $4,646 in 3,150 theaters for "Life as We Know It" and $4,102 in 3,072 locations for "Secretariat."
The Weinstein Co. drama "Nowhere Boy," the story of John Lennon's teen years, opened with $56,065 in four theaters for a $14,016 average.
Overture Films' prison parole tale "Stone," starring Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, premiered with $73,000 in six theaters for a $12,167 average.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Social Network," $15.5 million.
2. "Life as We Know It," $14.6 million.
3. "Secretariat," $12.6 million.
4. "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," $7 million.
5. "My Soul to Take," $6.9 million.
6. "The Town," $6.4 million.
7. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," $4.6 million.
8. "Easy A," $4.2 million.
9. "Case 39," $2.6 million.
10. "You Again," $2.5 million.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue Pictures is owned by Relativity Media LLC; Overture Films is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp.