My guy hasn’t called this morning, but Fantasy Moguls’ Steve Mason is reporting a shortfall for Neil Jordan and Jodie Foster‘s The Brave One, which was expected to reach or slightly surpass (according to tracking) $20 million this weekend. It opened with a relatively weak $4.8 million on Friday, says Mason, which will translate to a projected $15.1 million haul. As the wounded Steve McQueen says at the end of The Sand Pebbles, “What the hell happened?”

And bravo, American audiences, for the smart, sophisticated choices you’re making among the weekend’s three limited openers — the relentlessly vapid Beatles-music flick Across The Universe, the slithery-perverse Russian penis movie Eastern Promises, and the sad and solemn procedural/Iraq War drama In The Valley of Elah.

Naturally, Julie Taymor‘s Beatles film did “blazing” business on 23 screens ($9114 per situation) and David Cronenberg‘s Russian crime flick averaged $10,971 in 15 situations. And of course, Elah did the least amount of business, managing an “unspectacular” debut at 9 locations, having earned about $40,000 on Friday for a $4,492 average. Paul Haggis‘s pic should bring in $130,000 for the weekend.

It’s no secret that American moviegoers almost always favor films that seem the most emotionally obvious as well as the least challenging and/or complex, and they’ve certainly lived up to their reputation this weekend.