Love story ‘The Vow’ leads strong box office

Love story “The Vow” won the hearts of moviegoers with $51.4 million in global ticket sales over a pre-Valentine’s Day weekend that featured stronger-than-expected performances from three new releases. 

“The Vow,” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, took in $41.7 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters from Friday through Sunday in the biggest domestic opening so far this year, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday. Twenty international markets added $9.7 million, bringing the global total to $51.4 million. 

Action movie “Safe House” featuring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds took second place with an estimated $39.3 million domestically plus $10.2 million from 25 international markets. The worldwide total stood at $49.5 million.  

The studios had projected domestic openings in the $20 million range for each of the top two finishers. To the surprise of industry executives, four movies topped $20 million each. That lifted the domestic weekend total for all films 29.3 percent higher than the same weekend last year, according to the box office division of  

After the 2011 domestic box office ended with sales down 3.4 percent and attendance at a 16-year low, the early weeks of 2012 have produced a comeback.  

from Paul Smalera:

The piracy of online privacy

Online privacy doesn’t exist. It was lost years ago. And not only was it taken, we’ve all already gotten used to it. Loss of privacy is a fundamental tradeoff at the very core of social networking. Our privacy has been taken in service of the social tools we so crave and suddenly cannot live without. If not for the piracy of privacy, Facebook wouldn’t exist. Nor would Twitter. Nor even would Gmail, Foursquare, Groupon, Zynga, etc.

And yet people keep fretting about losing what’s already gone. This week, like most others of the past decade, has brought fresh new outrages for privacy advocates. Google, which a few weeks ago changed its privacy policy to allow the company to share your personal data across as many as 60 of its products, was again castigated this week for the changes. Except this time, the shouts came in the form of a lawsuit. The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the FTC to compel it to block Google’s changes, saying they violated a privacy agreement Google signed less than a year ago.

Elsewhere, social photography app Path was caught storing users’ entire iPhone address books on their servers and have issued a red-faced apology. (The lesser-known app Hipster committed the same sin and also offered a mea culpa.) And Facebook’s IPO has brought fresh concerns that Mark Zuckerberg will find creative new ways to leverage user data into ever more desirable revenue-generating products.

Trolling for a tech showdown

The scene: A federal courtroom in Tyler, Texas.

The drama: A lawsuit by a patent troll who said he owned the rights to the “interactive web.” The troll says he’s owed some back rent for owning the Web we all use every day.

Dramatis persona: Tim Berners-Lee. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He invented the World Wide Web.

Oh, to have been in Tyler. It was the stage for a showdown in one of the most bizarre patent troll cases ever, pitting (metaphorically if not in fact) expert witness Berners-Lee against some punk who wanted to make his name by taking out a very, very big gun in a shootout. The plaintiff, Eolas, claimed it owned patents that entitled it to royalties from anyone whose website used “interactive” features, like pictures that the visitor can manipulate, or streaming video. The claim, by Eolas’s owner, Chicago biologist Michael Doyle, was that his was the first computer program enabling an “interactive web.”

All about the Benjamins, or How Mark Zuckerberg cemented control of Facebook $100 at a time

One hundred dollars doesn’t go very far these days.

But for Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, a C-Note was the key to cementing his control over the social networking phenomenon.

As we learned last week when Facebook filed its prospectus for a $5 billion initial public offering, Zuckerberg has the voting rights to shares owned by some of Facebook’s biggest stakeholders, including venture capital firm Accel Partners, Digital Sky Technologies and former Facebook President Sean Parker.

In an amended filing on Wednesday, Facebook provided a little more color about the agreements that contributed to Zuck’s controversial control of 57 percent of the company’s voting shares.

Curt Schilling’s video game finally gets on base

Curt Schilling, the former pitcher and two-time World Series champ is more nervous about his new video game than he ever was about baseball.

He told a New York crowd at an event put on by Electronic Arts on Tuesday that he slept like a baby before World Series games in 2007 — but didn’t catch a wink on Monday night ahead of the release of his company’s first video game.

Schilling’s personal fortune is on the line with “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” a fantasy-action game that hit stores Tuesday. Schilling told Reuters last July he had invested between $30 million to $35 million of his own money into the 400-person company he founded that made the game.

Fast Cash: Accel invests $ 30 million in Capital Access Network

Shelling out cash to small businesses that need it fast– or just don’t qualify for bank loans– has become a $600 million annual business for New York-based Capital Access Network. Now, Accel Partners is betting $30 million that the combination of risk-averse banks and cash-starved businesses will help CAN grow even bigger.

CAN offers small and medium businesses cash advances and loans based on its proprietary scoring system, where factors like how fast a business is growing count a lot more than collateral or the business owner’s credit score.

“The banks never were very good lending money to this segment,” said Kevin Efrusy, the partner at Accel who arranged the deal and who is taking a seat on CAN’s board. “Especially after 2008, it’s completely dried up.” A typical CAN transaction is in the $30,000-$1.5 million range.

How ‘don’t be evil’ became ‘let’s all be evil’

It’s been nearly a decade since the tagline “don’t be evil” was attached to Google in a Wired magazine profile. Google, a little more than four years old, adopted the phrase as a code of conduct as it navigated through a growing list of hard questions, and as it increasingly shaped the Web itself. Since then, the term has been hurled back at its founders again and again — every time a saucy blogger or disgruntled user had a bone to pick with the company.

Google’s executives have long since stopped saying “don’t be evil” in public, and the company has been more willing to make bold moves that court controversy (as long as they lead to changes that will promote further growth). Case in point: Last month, Google altered its search results to favor pages from its Google+ social service over other social sites.

Facebook responded by designing a browser extension called “don’t be evil” that played up results from non-Google+ social sites, like Facebook and Twitter. It was an amusing potshot at Google — but for the wrong reasons. Facebook’s track record at focusing on its users’ needs and preferences is even worse than Google’s. Beyond the privacy snafus that flare up regularly, Facebook has designed its site not to make it easier for us to share content with our friends, but to weave corporate brands and ad campaigns into those friendships.

‘Chronicle’ wins tight box office race

Teen boys with superpowers helped lift the movie box office to unexpected heights over Super Bowl weekend as thriller “Chronicle” edged “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe’s haunted house movie “The Woman in Black.”

“Chronicle” brought in an estimated $22.0 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters, studio estimates released on Sunday showed. The movie with largely unknown actors finished just ahead of Radcliffe’s “Woman in Black,” which took in an estimated $21.0 million.

Both performances surpassed projections from studio executives, who had expected weaker sales against competition from Sunday’s Super Bowl football championship. The tallies include actual ticket receipts for Friday and Saturday plus estimates for Sunday at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theaters.

Nearly every Super Bowl commercial, in one post

We are compiling all the Super Bowl commercials here so you don’t have to. Once we’ve got most of them, we’ll ask you to vote which one you think was the best. In the meantime, post what you think about the ones we have here in the comments below.

Aliens star in an ad for the Chevrolet Volt electric car

Matthew Broderick returns to his Ferris Buehler roots in this Honda commercial

Jerry Seinfeld shows up in a number of Acura ads.

Regis Philbin appears in a commercial where a Coke salesman wins free Pepsi.

Kraft will debut a new breakfast food called “belVita”

A car shopper’s conscience unleashes his inner-Disco for

Amy Sedaris stars in the remake of a classic Super Bowl ad for Downy

GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad this year features an on-screen QR code

Adriana Lima prepares for Valentine’s Day in the Teleflora ad

The chimpanzees are back

Move over, Darth Vader: Dogs take center stage in Volkswagen’s ad this year

For the first-time ever, Lexus will air a Super Bowl commercial

Audi’s new Super Bowl ad features a hip vampire party

It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without an advertisement from Coca-Cola

Why Facebook won’t kill the class reunion

From the minute they allowed us grown-ups to join Facebook in 2007 right up to the IPO filing, the same question has been posited again and again, first on technology blogs, then later in the mainstream press: Will Facebook kill the class reunion?

Alumni are interviewed, both for and against. Statistics are cited, showing a decline in reunion attendance over the past five years, often without noting that many of us, due to economic realities during this same time period, have sometimes been forced to choose between shaking our sagging booties on a faraway campus and eating. High school and college reunions get lumped together, presupposing a similar pull toward both, which rings false for those of us who saw high school as an unfortunate trial to be endured and college as the moment when, freed from nuclear families and provincial roots, we grew into ourselves in no small part through interactions with new friends.

The real fallacy of this line of questioning, however — that it’s either Facebook or the reunion — lies in its presumption of causality: Why take it as a given that knowing more about our fellow alumni would cause us to be less likely to want to see them in person? If anything, speaking purely subjectively, scrolling down an endless stream of status updates, family photos and videos of my college friends’ toddlers walking around with hampers on their heads (I’m talking to you, Nick Spooner) makes me want to see them in person more, not less.