Weekend Box Office: The Martian Blasts Off

It was all systems go for Fox’s The Martian this weekend at the North America box office. The critically-acclaimed Ridley Scott epic was an instant hit with the public, who helped the Matt Damon-starrer come very close to breaking the record for biggest October opening ever, a honor currently residing with another popular space drama that opened two years ago this weekend: Gravity.

Following its world premiere last month at the Toronto International Film Festival –and a month of advance rave reviews and shrewd marketing-, The Martian arrived on 3,831 screens Friday where it earned an estimated $55 million. Should Sunday’s actual numbers prove to be bigger than the estimates reported, The Martian has a very good chance of taking the crown for biggest October opening of all time. Gravity currently holds the record with $55.7 million.

The huge opening for The Martian represents the second-biggest opening of director Ridley Scott’s career, just behind the $58 million earned by 2001’s Hannibal. It also represents the second-biggest opening for the film’s lead, Matt Damon. Damon’s best opening remains the $69.3 million earned by The Bourne Ultimatum eight years ago.

Like Gravity, The Martian’s opening numbers benefitted greatly from higher priced 3D presentations. In this case, a whopping 46% of the opening weekend gross came from the higher-priced format. Unlike Gravity, one higher priced format that The Martian did not benefit from was IMAX. Those screens were already reserved for Sony’s The Walk.

With so much critical and viewer goodwill now backing it, The Martian should have a long, successful run ahead of it both here and abroad. Speaking of the latter, the film opened overseas this weekend as well where it earned $45 million. Whether The Martian reaches Gravity’s $274 million domestic haul is anyone’s guess at this point. One thing is for certain: it should have no problem becoming the biggest hit of the early fall season.

It was good and not-so-good news for Sony Pictures this weekend. On the plus side, their animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 displayed a great hold in its sophomore session as it earned $33 million from 3,754 theaters. Off only 32%, the Adam Sandler-voiced comedy has brought in a big $90 million after ten days. The film is currently running 20% ahead of the first Hotel Transylvania, which should help the sequel zip past the 2012 original’s $148 million final haul without much trouble. Early foreign totals currently stand at $59 million.

The news wasn’t as positive for The Walk, the Robert Zemeckis-directed drama about the man who performed an illegal wire walk between the World Trade Center Towers back in the early 1970s. The studio tried to build interest in the film by giving it an IMAX-exclusive one-week run, a strategy that Universal used last month with Everest.

While the approach worked well enough for Everest, it didn’t quite pan out for The Walk, which had the misfortune to open the same weekend as The Martian. With everyone flocking to see the Ridley Scott feature, the best The Walk could muster from 448 theaters was $1.9 million for a mild per screen average of $3,460 and an eleventh place finish. The film goes into wide release on Friday.

After two great weeks of limited release, Lionsgate’s Oscar contender Sicario went wide with decent results. Now on 2,620 screens, the Emily Blunt drama earned $12 million to bring its overall total to $15 million. Strong critical notices helped get the film off the ground. Now it will be up to word-of-mouth among ticket buyers and potential year-end award consideration to keep the $30 million production afloat at the box office.

Adults looking for something a little lighter than Sicario helped keep Warner’s The Intern going in its second weekend. The Nancy Meyers comedy eased only 34% in its second week on 3,320 screens to earn an estimated $11.6 million. After ten days, The Intern has earned $36.5 million. Should positive word-of-mouth continue, The Intern could finish with a healthy $60-65 million final haul.

Rounding out the top five was Fox’s sci-fi sequel The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials with $7.65 million from 3,319 screens. The film has brought in $63.2 million domestically and an additional $147 million from overseas markets.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

  1. Black Mass (Warner) $5.9 million (-46%); $52.5 million
  1. Everest (Universal) $5.5 million (-58%); $33.1 million
  1. The Visit (Universal) $3.9 million (-41%); $57.6 million
  1. War Room (Sony) $2.8 million (-34%) $60.5 million
  1. The Perfect Guy (Sony) $2.4 million (-50%); $52.7 million

Next weekend will bring the arrival of the fantasy Pan from Warner Brothers. The film was originally set to open this past summer but was delayed due to “unfinished effects work”. Despite some heavy promotion, Pan should prove to be no threat to either The Martian or Hotel Transylvania 2.

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