Weekend Box Office: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Charts Impressive Opening but GRAVITY Holds For First

     October 13, 2013

gravity-sandra-bullock-george-clooney-sliceAfter setting a new October record for its debut, Gravity was again stellar in its second orbit. The 3D drama remained securely in first place with an estimated $44.2 million and a new domestic total of $123.4 million after ten days. That left newcomer Captain Phillips with a second place launch, though the film’s estimate of $26 million was well above expectations. Machete Kills, on the other hand, brought in less than half of its anticipated $8 million start and just one third of the opening that Machete claimed in 2011.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Gravity $44,265,000 $123.4
2.  Captain Phillips $26,000,000 $26
3.  Cloudy With a Chance 2 $14,200,000 $78
4.  Machete Kills $3,797,000 $3.7
5.  Runner Runner $3,725,000 $14.1
6.  Prisoners $3,665,000 $53.6
7.  Insidious Chapter 2 $2,650,000 $78.4
8.  Rush $2,400,000 $22.2
9.  Don Jon $2,340,000 $20.1
10.  Baggage Claim $2,075,000 $18.2

gravity-posterIn case Gravity’s $55.7 million opening didn’t impress you, today’s numbers may make the difference. After its record-setting debut, Gravity went on to substantial midweek numbers that averaged out to $5.8 million per day. Realizing that its closest competitor (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2) averaged less than $1 million during the same time period should help highlight what a remarkable run Gravity is on.

Gravity was down just 21% in its second frame. That’s the best sophomore hold among wide releases this year – Lee Daniels’ The Butler was off by 33% and We’re the Millers 32% on their second frames this August, but both started off much smaller. Most box office observers predicted a second week on top for Gravity but underestimated the strength of its hold. Just as a reminder, the Warner Bros. release was not expected to top $40 million on its first weekend, never mind its second. The film is now on track to hit $200 million by the end of its domestic run, which would secure it a spot in the top ten releases of 2013.

It’s true that a portion of the credit for Gravity must go to higher 3D ticket prices (close to 85% of the film’s 3,660 locations feature three dimensions) but that doesn’t fully explain how the film is putting up summer-sized numbers in October. Gravity has already earned as much as World War Z did in its first ten days; and Gravity cost half as much as Brad Pitt’s zombie apocalypse. So, tell me again why these Gravity numbers are nothing special?

captain-phillips-poster-2For an example of a more typical October hit, look no further than Captain Phillips. The real-life drama was projected to open in the $20 million range – just a bit higher than Argo on this weekend last year. Instead, Captain Phillips wound up with an estimated $26 million from 3,020 locations and provided Tom Hanks his highest opening since 2009’s Angels & Demons. With a current Rotten Tomato score of 95%, Captain Phillips is also Hanks’ best reviewed film in almost a decade. That suggests that the drama will see strong holds in the coming weeks – perhaps not as strong as Argo (down just 15.5% on week two) but, who knows?

To be clear, the weekend’s second new release has no chance of realizing a strong hold next weekend. Machete Kills is the sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s cult ‘hit’ Machete (itself a spin-off of Grindhouse, the director’s 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino). Machete opened with $11.4 million in August 2011 and eventually earned $44 million worldwide. The original is considered a modest ‘hit’ because it cost just over $10 million to make and had a solid run on the secondary market. The sequel was expected to open in the $8 million range but managed just half that. Stunt casting the likes of Lady Gaga and Sofia Vergara didn’t count for much at the box office , as it turned out.

Even with two strong performances leading the chart, this weekend ended up about 10% lower than the same frame in 2012. Three new releases will try to reverse that trend beginning Friday, though only one is expected to make an impact. Carrie, the reboot of the 1970s classic, is expected to open with around $25 million. That would be good enough for first place, provided Gravity loses much of its momentum. Even a drop of 40% for the number one film would put Carrie in a close race. As for Escape Plan and The Fifth Estate? They aren’t even in the running.


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