Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips and Gravity Power Adult Fueled Box Office

Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips and Gravity Power Adult Fueled Box OfficeThe Warner Brothers Sci-fi blockbuster thriller Gravity held off a strong debut by Sony’s Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks to remain at the top of the North American box office this past weekend. The Alfonso Cuaron smash followed up its record-setting October opening with a record-setting second week hold during a non-holiday for a film that opened to $55 million plus (only in Hollywood would that be a record). The one-two punch of Gravity and Phillips left the weekend’s other opener Machete Kills with a dull blade. The box office overall, however, trailed last year at this time where five movies grossed north of $10 million as opposed to just two in this frame.

Proving again that a movie can open at any time of the year and become a blockbuster, Gravity dipped a mere 21% in its second weekend of release on 3,660 screens to earn a sensational $44.2 million. After ten days the Sandra Bullock space thriller has earned a sensational $123.4 million and is showing no signs of slowing down. Adding to Warner’s good fortune are the foreign numbers, which stand at a great $68 million from a handful of markets.

Gravity has everything going for it right now: sensational word-of-mouth, fantastic midweek numbers and more importantly, repeat business. Not surprisingly, a majority of the film’s gross continues to come from 3D and IMAX 3D screens. What is surprising is the uptick in 3D business. The higher-priced format accounted for 82% of ticket sales, which represents an increase over last weekend’s 80%. IMAX, who has the film booked through October, reported a record second weekend haul of $9 million.

Given its unexpected popularity, it’s hard to determine exactly where Gravity may finish its domestic run. The film has become a cultural event of sorts in the way Titanic and Avatar did during their respective theatrical runs. While no one is claiming that Gravity will hit the financial highs that those two films did, it certainly will gross enough to become one of the top ten films of 2013. With the remainder of October pretty much all to itself, the movie should zip right by at least the $200-210 million mark by Halloween.

The real challenges lie in November where event pics such as Ender’s Game, Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will arrive and take over many of the IMAX and 3D screens Gravity currently commands. Those films will certainly steal some thunder from the Cuaron blockbuster, but year-end awards and repeat business should keep Gravity floating along right through the end of the year. It would not be surprising to see the movie bring in over a quarter of a billion dollars at the domestic box office.

Gravity wasn’t the only adult drama to pull in big numbers this weekend. Opening strongly in second place was Sony’s Somali Pirate thriller Captain Phillips. The dramatization of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates debuted on 3,020 screens to earn a great $26 million. The $55 million production was directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93) and stars Tom Hanks in the lead role as the American captain who was taken hostage by the pirates for several days following the botched hijacking. The film earned a stellar 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an encouraging “A” from ticket buyers on CinemaScore, both of which should help Phillips smoothly sail through the fall right into awards season.

Sony had another hit film in third place this weekend; the animated comedy hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The sole choice for families in the marketplace, Cloudy 2 was off only 32% this weekend to earn an estimated $14.2 million from 3,874 theaters. To date, the 3D hit has earned a solid $78 million and should cross the $100 million mark within the next few weeks. The movie has earned $11 million thus far in a small amount of foreign markets.

Collapsing into fourth place was the second wide release of the weekend, the action sequel Machete Kills. The second film to feature a character that originated in one of the faux trailers from 2007’s Grindhouse, Machete Kills debuted on 2,538 screens but found very few patrons there to welcome back the Mexican super-agent (played once again by Danny Trejo). In its first three days of release, Machete Kills could only muster a dismal $3.8 million, which stands as director Robert Rodriguez’s worst opening to date for a wide release of one of his movies. It also ranked as the eighth worst wide opening for any feature film since 1982. Fortunately for distributor Open Road Films, they only paid $2 million for the distribution rights, so the studio may stand to see a little bit of profit when all is said and done.

Rounding out the top five was another R-rated feature that debuted to weak numbers last weekend, the Fox feature Runner Runner. The Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck feature dropped 52% in its sophomore session on 3,026 screens to earn a weak $3.7 million. After ten days Runner has earned a weak $14 million and will be lucky to crawl past the $20 million mark by the end of its brief theatrical run. The news is a little more encouraging for the film in foreign markets where it has earned $31 million thus far.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Prisoners (Warner Brothers) $3.6 million (-36%); $53.6 million

7. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) $2.6 million (-32%); $78.4 million

8. Rush (Universal) $2.3 million (-47%); $22.2 million

9. Don Jon (Relativity) $2.3 million (-49%); $20.1 million

10. Baggage Claim (Fox Searchlight); $2 million (-49%); $18.2 million

Next weekend the latest remake of Carrie arrives along with the new Sly Stallone prison drama Escape Plan and the Julian Assange drama The Fifth Estate. Will any of these films top Gravity or Captain Phillips? I wouldn’t count on it.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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