‘The Martian’ Falls Short of October’s Box Office Record with $55 Million

     October 4, 2015


For a while there it looked like The Martian might set a new opening record for October, but as of this morning Gravity remains the box office champ. Fox is reporting that The Martian earned an estimated $55 million in its first three days – a bit lower than the $55.78 million Gravity claimed on this same weekend in 2013. But before we get too comfortable with this outcome, the obvious must be stated: less than $1 million separates The Martian’s estimate and Gravity’s record. Their places could easily be reversed when actual earnings are announced on Monday.

When box office numbers are this close, especially when a record is on the line, it’s always good to remember the difference between ‘studio estimates’ and actual grosses. Studio estimates are released on Sunday morning – before most tickets for the weekend’s final day have been sold. Actual grosses are just that: the final word on box office earnings. So why not wait until Monday to cover the box office? Honestly, it’s because studio estimates are more often right than wrong. Even a $500,000 differential between an estimate and an actual is typically not enough to alter the essential conclusions of a weekend box office report. Naturally, there are always exceptions. This summer gave us two very prominent box office retractions concerning Jurassic World and Inside Out, and both concerned all-time records.

the-martian-movie-posterAssuming that the Gravity record will stand, what does that mean for The Martian? Not much, really. Director Ridley Scott’s space epic is already a box office success  – especially considering the giant shadow that Gravity cast over its release. A hit with both audiences (A- CinemaScore) and critics (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), Gravity went on to earn $274 million in North America and $723 million worldwide. With that success in mind, most projections had The Martian opening with $50 million. New record or not, the fact that The Martian topped expectations is great news for Fox, especially following their disastrous Fantastic Four reboot this summer.

Of course, Fox did its best to ensure a positive outcome for The Martian: upping Gravity’s theatre count from 3,575 to 3,831, with at least two-thirds of all venues screening the film in 3D. The Martian also claimed a higher CinemaScore than Gravity (A vs. A-), though whether that will be enough to propel the film to a comparable domestic total remains to be seen. Adding estimates from this weekend’s 49 international markets, The Martian currently holds a worldwide total of just over $100 million.

While The Martian fell just short of a box office record, the weekend’s other new release fell just short of the top ten. Sony/TriStar’s The Walk, from director Robert Zemeckis, earned an estimated $1.5 million from its limited run in 448 IMAX and premium large format venues. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Phillippe Petit, the high wire artist featured in 2008’s Oscar Winning documentary Man on Wire, the film opened on Wednesday but garnered little attention thanks to an underwhelming $240,379 debut. Over its first five days, The Walk earned an estimated $1.9 million. That’s less than Universal’s Everest made on the first day of its own limited IMAX/PLF launch three weeks ago.

The Walk will hit theatres nationwide next weekend, along with Pan, the Warner Bros. fantasy that was originally scheduled for July. At this point if either The Walk or Pan makes it to $20 million I would be surprised, which leaves a lot of room for The Martian to claim a second frame at number one. Back in 2013, Gravity saw a drop of just 23% in its sophomore frame. Did The Martian create enough buzz to end up with a similar hold? We’ll see. In the meantime, check out our other predictions for October here.

Here’s this weekend’s top eleven films (it seemed mean to cut The Walk out of the chart altogether).

 Title  Weekend Total
1.  The Martian  $55,000,000 $55
2.  Hotel Transylvania 2  $33,000,000 $90.5
3.  Sicario  $12,075,000 $15
4.  The Intern  $11,620,000 $36.5
5.  Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials  $7,650,000 $63.2
6.  Black Mass  $5,905,000 $52.5
7.  Everest  $5,510,000 $33.2
8.  The Visit  $3,950,000 $56.9
9.  War Room  $2,800,000 $60.5
10.  The Perfect Guy  $2,400,000 $52.6
11.  The Walk  $1,550,000 $1.9

Image via Sony Pictures

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