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Friends and Profits: ‘The Social Network’

"The Social Network" opens wide today, and it appears the stars have aligned for Sony .

The film has drawn reviews so rave, the film is already drawing Oscar buzz.

Columbia Pictures

It has built-in global awareness among Facebook's 550 million users. And the film paints an unflattering picture of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which has sparked plenty of controversy in the media, and as they say, all press is good press.

Adult dramas seldom draw crowds for midnight screenings, and they seldom sell out showings days ahead of a film's opening. But this may turn out to be quite a unique adult drama. Today I reported from the Arclight Theater in Hollywood, and the midnight screening had already sold out, and several showings this weekend are already full.

The film won't break any records as the comic book flicks do, but it should bring in some $28 million this weekend. It's expected to hold up well through the fall, to draw some $75 million in the US total. That's a nice return for Sony, considering that the movie cost an estimated $50 million and should have strong international appeal.

Movies about people sitting in front of computers always risk being deadly boring. But the fast-paced dialogue manages to make "Social Network" be more about inter-personal relationships than friending within the closed site.

And Sony wanted to get Facebook's core fans on board. The hosted 350 screenings across the country, including a 25 stop tour of colleges, as well as meetings and screenings for technology blogs like Mashable, hedge funds and entrepreneurs.

Sony and Aaron Sorkin insist that the movie is very much based in reality. In response, Facebook scoffs and calls it "pure fiction." Earlier this week Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told me calmly "I've seen the movie. It's Hollywood. It's fiction. Mark and I have been joking that his real life is him and his friends, sitting in their jeans, coding, ordering a pizza.... It's just not interesting enough for a Hollywood movie."

Apparently it is — the film has a 97 percent score on RottenTomatoes.com. And I predict that it will only drive more interest and traffic to Facebook.com

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com
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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.