Turns out the early speculation that Salt was likely to beat out Inception at the box office this past weekend was premature: Inception is still the #1 box office movie in America, with a box office of $43.5 million, bringing its U.S. total up to $143.6 million for its first ten days in theaters. Salt, for its part, didn’t do too shabbily, taking the #2 spot with #36.5 million.
Are box office horse races a little silly? Sure. But we at least understand the origins of this one: Inception is a movie that inspires intense love and conversation among its fans and disgust among its (less numerous) critics. But it is, above all, a movie of ideas: Where the fans might see in that a fascinating metaphysical labyrinth and its detractors might see a heartless snoozer, both groups would acknowledge that it’s very different from the typical summer fare.
Salt, for its part, is the typical summer fare, not that there’s anything wrong with that: A competent action-thriller starring super-duper A-lister Angelina Jolie that’s fine with being a little ridiculous and by many accounts delivers what it promises. Ex ante, it’s the movie you’d probably expect to carry the summer. Inception‘s little box-office win its second week in theaters may not change much in the fabric of the movie industry – it probably says more about Christopher Nolan’s directorial power than anything else — but it represents one little victory for the intellectuals of Hollywood, assailed group that they are.