3-D space epic “Gravity” delivered a bigger-than-expected $55.5 million at an otherwise dismal weekend box office. Only one other film grossed more than $8 million, holdover “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2″ ($21.5 million). After the recent ballyhoo over AMC’s “Breaking Bad” finale, “Gravity” reminds that the public will respond to unanimous praise for a ground-breaking cinematic event.
But two films do not a good weekend make. The total for the top 10 is around $110 million, down from $127 million last year, the second weekend in a row with a large drop. Not much is luring younger audiences, who are the year-round mainstay for the business. They should return with “Carrie” in a couple weeks and “Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire” next month. This decline in total numbers is a concern for both studios and exhibitors.
1. Gravity (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 96
$55,550,000 in 3,575 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $15,538; Cumulative: $55,550,000
The key statistic here isn’t the claims of October records or best openings for Bullock and Clooney (only true if one doesn’t adjust for inflation or the heavy 3-D and IMAX surcharges). What’s really impressive is the big increase in gross from Friday to Saturday, much above normal for a non-family film, which means great word of mouth and future must-see status.
Alfonso Cuaron’s $110 million space drama, which earned the best reviews by far of any 2013 release, per Metacritic, grossed $16.1 million on Friday (Thursday night’s late show added another $1.4 million), with Saturday jumping to over $23 million, much higher than anticipated (as was the full weekend overall).
More than “Gravity”‘s decent but not spectacular A- Cinemascore (the same rating as “Prisoners”), this uptick means that this is already a big impact film, with high awareness and now major audience positive reaction likely propelling it to substantial further success. The audience breakdown was slightly more male than female, but it also skewed to an older audience, which reflects the strong reviews but defies the normal genre response. The studio will chase the untapped younger audience still out there that could be convinced to see this. That brings the real potential of a far bigger total gross.
The context for this figure is split between normal high-end October releases and review-oriented awards contenders. The same weekend last year, “Taken 2” grossed around $50 million but with no 3-D surcharges, meaning more total tickets were sold for that film. But compared to October films that ended up as major Oscar contenders, say “Argo,” “The Social Network,” or “The Departed,” the last of which performed best at $27 million for the weekend — this is in a commercial league of its own, and clearly sets the pace for upcoming contenders (which are unlikely to do the same level of business).
Also significant, and perhaps a reversal of recent trends for 3-D and IMAX, which have fallen a bit, 80% of the gross (slightly less of the total attendees) comes from 3-D and IMAX theaters, all of which should help in the long term. It means not only that people wanted to see the film, but they were willing to pay more to see it in optimum conditions (per many reviewers’ suggestion).
This isn’t Cuaron’s top opener – that would be “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” But the gross already tops the lifetime gross of any of his other films (“Children of Men” only got to $35 million domestic). Producer David Heyman, who oversaw all the “Harry Potter” films, is more used to this sort of success (Will Smith-starring “I Am Legend” opened to $77 million at Christmas 2007). This is a triumph for all involved.
What comes next: The second weekend will be just as strong an indicator for what comes, but “Gravity” has already planted its flag as one of the potentially biggest fall releases ever and as a significant awards contender ahead.
2. Cloudy With a Chances of Meatballs 2 (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$21,500,000 (-37%) in 4,001 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,374; Cumulative: $60,557,000
A solid #2 this weekend, with a standard better than average hold for an animated film, this continues as the sole family film in the market, undoubtedly giving it a boost. Also helping were sneaks of “Captain Phillips,” which played at 800 of these theaters last night, adding to evening business as its ticket sales were included the total (the Tom Hanks-starring film opens next Friday, with these screenings meant to bolster awareness and interest).
“Cloudy 2” opened bigger than the first go-round, but even with the sneaks, dropped more — the 2009 initial film grossed $25 million and dropped 17%. Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania” last year fell 36% last year and grossed $27 million its second weekend.
What comes next: Fortunately for Sony the field remains clear for the next few weeks without much kids’ competition.
3. Runner Runner (20th Century-Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 37
$7,600,000 in 3,026 theaters; PSA: $2,512; Cumulative: $7,600,000
The other new wide release this week is a flop. This Justin Timberlake-Ben Affleck gambling caper film, cowritten by “Ocean 13″‘s scripters, failed to make a dent and shows how fickle audiences are about new releases. Produced for about $30 million by Fox partner New Regency (“Bride Wars,” “Broken City”) and directed by Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) this barely moved the needle despite a big campaign and a 3,000-wide theater break. Already open in much of the world, the foreign take ($23.5 million) also does not help the cause.
What comes next: Likely has one more week before it runs out of steam.
4. Prisoners (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$5,700,000 (-48%) in 3,236 theaters (-54); PSA: $; Cumulative: $47,880,000
Denis Villeneuve’s well-received kidnap drama took another nearly 50% drop this weekend. It seems to be suffering from a lack of playability, as Warners’ own “Gravity” may have hurt it, along with just OK word of mouth.
What comes next: International, which is opening slowly, will determine whether this turns out to be a success.
5. Rush (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$4,400,000 (-56%) in 2,308 theaters (+11); PSA: $1,910; Cumulative: $18,100,000
It started off slow, and now took a large drop, with North American audiences not responding to Ron Howard’s Formula 1 biofilm anything like Europe, where the film has been in the lead position in most countries.
What comes next: This will struggle to make it in most theaters beyond one more week. However, worldwide it is much bigger, which should propel it into profit.
6. Don Juan (Relativity) Week 2 – Last weekend #5
$4,160,000 (-52%) in 2,422 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,718; Cumulative: $16,077,000
A big second week drop for this Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed and starring romantic comedy which has received a tepid response.
What comes next: With its low production and acquisition costs, though marketing added to expense, this should turn out OK for all involved.
7. Baggage Claim (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$4,125,000 (-54%) in 2,230 theaters (+11); PSA: $2,032: Cumulative: $15,185,000
A more than 50% drop isn’t good news for this Fox Searchlight produced and marketed comedy, which aimed for the Tyler Perry comedy audience but hasn’t connected anywhere close so far.
What comes next: This will struggle to get much beyond $20 million.
8. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) Week 4 – Last weekend #6
$3,876,000 (-41%%) in 2,607 theaters (-513); PSA: $1,487; Cumulative: $74,750,000
Not a bad drop for a horror sequel at this point in the run, and now more than $20 million ahead of the original.
What comes next: More chapters ahead no doubt.
9. Pulling Strings (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Metacritic: 56
$2,500,000 in 387 theaters; PSA: $6,460; Cumulative: $2,500,000
For the second time in recent weeks, Lionsgate’s Mexican production partner Panteleon has opened a comedy (after “Instructions Not Included”), again starring a well-known actor (Jaime Camil here) that attracted a decent Latino response in limited release. It isn’t close to what “Instructions” did (almost $8 million in fewer — 348 — theaters), but this is still good enough for ninth place and a better PSA than all of the top 10 except “Gravity.”
What comes next: “Instructions” expanded quickly to reach over $40 million in five weeks already. This doesn’t look like it has the same potential or close to it, but these numbers are actually closer to what Lionsgate expected the first time around, and suggest an ongoing appeal for Mexican-set films aimed at this strong base audience.
10. Enough Said (Fox Searchlight) Week 3 – Last weekend #11
$2,150,00 in 437 theaters (+210); PSA: $4,920; Cumulative: $5,387,000
Coming down to earth after two promising initial weeks, the figures suggest some limits to this 50-something romance starring Julia-Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. The gross is only slightly better than last week’s with almost twice as many theaters, which suggests little growth. And it is just below what Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back” took in its third week when it expanded to 305 theaters.
What comes next: Last week, this looked like it could grow into a success similar to “The Way, Way Back.” This now looks like it will fall short, though it should easily pass the $10 million mark.