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This wholesale embrace of The King's Speech suggests that people are generally more responsive to warmth than to cool, and more comfortable with feel-good denouement than with terminal ambiguity.
A NON-SUPER WEEKEND
What We Learned the Last Two Days: The King’s Speech Is Gaining Oscar momentum, the Celtics Are the Best Team in the NBA and Tiger Woods Still Has a Ways to Go
The weekend before the Super Bowl, which will lead to the most anemic album chart of the SoundScan era, felt like two days and nights in limbo for most of America—fans of The King’s Speech, the Boston Celtics and Bubba Watson excepted.

The historical drama completed its ascent from Oscar dark horse to favorite, as Tom Hooper upset The Social Network’s David Fincher at the Directors Guild Awards Saturday night, while the film received the ultimate honor at last night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning for Best Ensemble Cast—the SAG equivalent of Best Picture—while Colin Firth got Best Actor. Firth seems a shoo-in for the same honor at the Oscars Feb. 27, and Geoffrey Rush has a very good shot at getting Supporting Actor, although he lost in the SAG Awards to The Fighter’s Christian Bale.

This wholesale embrace of The King's Speech suggests that people are generally more responsive to warmth than to cool, and more comfortable with feel-good denouement than with terminal ambiguity.

Meanwhile, Social Network star and Best Actor nominee Jesse Eisenberg did his part on behalf of that brilliant film, hosting Saturday Night Live and meeting Mark Zuckerberg—presumably for the first time—onstage during the show (see video in Rumore Mill). Zuckie looked like a kid at Disneyland during his brief face time, flashing his quintessential geeky grin, and it was a hoot to hear him intrtoduce Nicki Minaj in a segue out of some parallel universe.

Along with the Celtics’ flattening of the Lakers in ABC’s Sunday afternoon game, those were the highlights of a bleak late January weekend that felt like the “inbetweenies,” as Ian Dury once put it.

This year's box office is off to the worst start in two decades, the N.Y. Post’s Claire Atkinson reported, as moviegoers huddled at home rather than heading to the cineplex. The number of tickets sold since the start of the year is an estimated 79 million, the lowest figure since at least 1990, when around 70 million tickets were sold.

"The box office is extremely low even beyond any normal winter," Box Office Mojo’s Brandon Gray told Atkinson. "So far it's a 20-year low."

This January's box office is a far cry from a year ago, when the blockbuster Avatar was in theaters and on its way to shattering records. But even excluding that blockbuster, attendance is unusually low for this time of year, according to Gray. "January is usually much stronger even without Avatar, and that's driven by product," he said.

The major studios released just seven movies nationwide in January, compared to 10 a year ago and 12 in 2009. In last weekend's listless box office, the romantic comedy No Strings Attached, starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, took the top spot from the Seth Rogan-starring semi-flop The Green Hornet.

The season's worst snowstorm, which dumped 20 inches of snow on Central Park and blanketed much of the East Coast on Dec. 26, looks to have played a role in a post-holiday slump. But Gray refused to place all the blame on the white stuff. "The studios will spin the weather beyond its actual effects on the box office," he insisted.

Interestingly, there's evidence that housebound consumers are turning to other forms of entertainment. TV viewership jumped during the Jan. 10-13 storm—according to Nielsen data, viewership across the country was up 8% over 2010 during that four-day period.

There are also indications that viewers are getting their film fill from in-home options, particularly HBO (which kicked off ther final season of Big Love) and Showtime (which premiered a pair of intriguing new comedies in Episodes and Shameless, as well as bringing back Californication), whose productions have consistently been more cinematically satisfying thanb the bulk of feature films in recent years. "We generally see significant upticks in on-demand viewership during snowstorms," said a spokesman for Comcast

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