Gravity Tops Captain Phillips at Weekend Box Office

Box office juggernaut Gravity continued its domination of the North American box office despite three new contenders entering the marketplace. The George Clooney and Sandra Bullock space thriller saw another slim decline in attendance as it continued its journey to the $200 million mark. Sony’s hit Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks stayed its opening weekend course with a strong hold in second place. Of the three new films, only Sony’s remake of Carrie managed to make any sort of noise and even that was of the underwhelming variety. Carrie certainly had a better opening than Sly Stallone’s prison flick Escape Plan and the Julian Assange drama The Fifth Estate.

Witnessing a drop of only 28%, Gravity orbited 3,820 theaters in its third weekend to earn a sensational $31 million. Word-of-mouth has begun to cross over to younger audiences, which along with repeat viewings have kept the movie performing more like a summer blockbuster than a serious-minded fall release aimed at adults. To date, the Alfonso Cuaron blockbuster has earned a fantastic $170.5 million and should zip right by the $200 million mark with ease by next Sunday. The film is currently on course to finish its run near the $275 million mark domestically and could double that amount overseas. Speaking of foreign engagements, the movie has earned a solid $114 million thus far with major markets such as the UK, France, Japan and China set to open the film in November.

Sony’s Captain Phillips is shaping up to be another big fall attraction at the multiplexes as the movie dipped a mere 32% in its sophomore session to earn a solid $17.3 million from 3,020 locations. Like Gravity, word-of-mouth has been great for the Tom Hanks drama which should guarantee a healthy run right through the remainder of the month and well into November. To date Phillips has brought in a great $53 million and should make it to the $100 million mark right around the time awards season kicks in, which should help elevate the domestic grosses even higher.

Despite Halloween being right around the corner, there is only one horror film being released in theaters this year: the Sony remake of the 1976 classic Carrie. Directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore and Judy Greer, the $30 million production met with mixed reaction from critics and indifference from ticket buyers. The former’s notices generated a 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while the latter contributed a so-so $17 million from 3,157 theaters. The film saw a slight drop on Saturday, which could be an indication of bad word-of-mouth and a theatrical run that may be out of gas by the time All Hallow’s Eve arrives in eleven days.

The third film from Sony Pictures to be in the top ten was the studio’s animated hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The 3D comedy only lost 26% of last weekend’s audiences to earn $10.1 million from 3,602 theaters. To date, the sequel has earned a great $93 million and is still on track to equal the $124 million earned by the 2009 original (albeit at higher prices and fewer sold tickets).

An action film that brings together former action icons Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger? It was a pairing that should have spelled box office success… if it was the late ’80s, early ’90s or a new entry in Sly’s Expendables franchise. Alas, the new feature Escape Plan only proved to be the latest disappointment from the aging pair. The $70 million production opened on 2,883 screens to earn a weak $9.8 million. Targeted at the older males who made Sly and Arnie household names a few decades ago, Escape Plan had to contend with a football season in full swing, baseball playoffs as well as the likes of Gravity and Captain Phillips. With a fast fade all but guaranteed domestically for the Lionsgate feature, the studio will look to foreign markets to pick up the slack. To date, the movie has earned a promising $15 million from a handful of countries since opening on October 13.

The news was far worse for the third wide release of the weekend, the Dreamworks/Disney drama The Fifth Estate. A fictional account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (played by Benedict “KHAAAANNNN!!!!!!!!” Cumberbatch) that was directed by Bill Condon, The Fifth Estate was once considered to be a possible Oscar contender and even landed the honor of being the opening night feature at the Toronto Film Festival. That was where the film’s woes began. Critics hated it and negative word-of-mouth began to spread. Audiences had their say on the film this weekend by completely ignoring its debut on 1,769 screens. The most they contributed was a disastrous eighth place opening worth $1.7 million and a pathetic per-screen average of $969.

The news was far, far better for another drama opening in limited release this weekend featuring Cumberbatch in a small supporting role: the remarkable Fox Searchlight slavery drama 12 Years a Slave. The period drama, based on the autobiography of Solomon Northrup, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men) and was directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame). Making the most of unanimously positive reviews and film festival buzz rivaled this year only by Gravity; Slave opened on only 19 theaters Friday but earned a big $960,000. Fox will platform the drama over the next few weeks (next weekend the movie heads into 100 theaters) and hopes to build its audience along the way through word-of-mouth, the strong critical notices and year-end awards.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Prisoners (Warner) $2 million (-43%); $57.2 million

7. Enough Said (Fox Searchlight) $1.8 million (-6%) $10.7 million

9. Runner Runner (Fox) $1.6 million (-57%); $17.5 million

10. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) $1.5 million (-44%); $81 million Next weekend sees the debut of Ridley Scott’s The Counselor and the comedy Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Given how big the opening numbers for the Jackass films has been thus far there is a good chance that Gravity may finally give up the top spot next weekend. Maybe.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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