BOX OFFICE: ‘Gravity’ Breaks Records (& Physics); ‘Captain Phillips’ Holds Audiences Captive

Weekend Winners

Gravity 1

Gravity Defies Expectations (Twice)

Everyone’s talking about how Gravity is going to change the game for studio releases, and between this and The Great Gatsby I would certainly be down with studios focusing more on content than property. For the moment, though, let’s just soak in the achievement of Gravity itself. Sure, it boasts two name stars at the front of it, but its success is predicated on anything but starpower. It’s the sheer dynamism of the craft that’s selling, the experience itself proving a stronger draw than crafty marketing or obvious franchise appeal. Nothing quite like this has been done before, so there really was no knowing how it would pan out. Two weekends in, it’s pretty clear the gamble paid off.

Last weekend the film set a record October opening with $55.8 million, earning greater success than sequels Paranormal Activity 3, Jackass 3D and Taken 2. It was the biggest opening for an original live-action feature since Inception, and it should also be noted that in its 2nd weekend it’s done better than Inception. That film went on to $292.6 million in total, so don’t be shocked when I predict the film will finish well above $300 million. It may seem a stretch, but so did Avatar and Titanic at the time of their releases. Gravity is tailor-fit for gargantuan success, timed at only 90 minutes and a complete rush from start to finish. It’s a film I already expect I’ll revisit in theaters more times than any film in recent memory and a run-up to Oscar doesn’t hurt its chances at endurance. Let’s just hope it isn’t commoditized and branded in the same way as Inception and Avatar were. That will be the sign of its impact.

Captain PhillipsCaptain Phillips Holds on Gravity‘s Rear

It’s too easy to pity a film going up against a surprise juggernaut ala Gravity, but don’t cry for Captain Phillips just yet. It’s made of stronger stuff than your typical, disposable thriller. Arriving to a heat of excitement at New York Film Festival two weeks back, the film’s had time to build the intensity of its premise and execution. That and Tom Hanks is at the front with one of the strongest turns of his career, so there’s a bit of star power to boost it. Even I who wasn’t blown away by the film would recommend it as necessary, even enthralling, viewing, reservations included. With a solid “A” CinemaScore, I’d expect a strong and steady performance in the vein of last year’s Oscar winner Argo. Isn’t it a delight that multiple smart action films can coexist in the box office while big, dumb blockbusters can only sustain one at a time?

Weekend Losers

Machete KillsMachete Kills… His Threequel Chances

Too easy. I don’t know how Robert Rodriguez keeps this up, but we’re completely exhausted at with his repetitive brandings. His last “original” film was Shorts, a ridiculously stupid, childish farce that finished at $20.9 million. Given Machete Kills didn’t open past $4 million, expect it to land even lower. I haven’t a clue how he keeps getting studios to make his films, but something’s got to change soon. Maybe after Sin City: A Dam to Kill he’ll try putting out something schlocky in the “perfect storm of dreadful” vein of Grindhouse: Planet Terror. Or he could cower back into his grotesque kiddie corner.

Turns out what they were really running from... was love.

Turns out what they were really running from… was love.

Runner Runner Ran Away

No surprises here, if only because the shock has dissipated since its release and failure last week. What do we blame Runner Runner‘s flop on? Justin Timberlake’s unrealized star potential? Ben Affleck’s Batman backlash? The intensity of being a clearly derivative thriller going up against Gravity? The mostly mild to uninterested reviews? Really all of those count as contributing factors. In any case, it’s not a happy time for Fox. Here’s hoping they get more audience success with The Counselor, a film that remains quite an appealing question mark.

Box Office Top 10 – October 11-13, 2013

1. Gravity (2nd Weekend: $44.3 million; Total: $123.4 million)
2. Captain Phillips (1st Weekend: $26 million)
3. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (3rd Weekend: $14.2 million; Total: $79 million)
4. Machete Killers (1st Weekend: $3.8 million)
5. Runner Runner (2nd Weekend: $3.7 million; Total: $14.1 million)
6. Prisoners (4th Weekend: $3.7 million; Total: $53.7 million)
7. Insidious Chapter 2 (5th Weekend: $2.7 million; Total: $78.5 million)
8. Rush (4th Weekend: $2.4 million; Total: $22.2 million)
9. Don Jon (3rd Weekend: $2.4 million; Total: $20.1 million)
10. Baggage Claim (3rd Weekend: $2.1 million; Total: $18.2 million)

Limited Release Top 10

romeo-and-juliet-2013A gentle reminder, this list concerns indie films that have NOT made it into the overall Top 10 of the weekend, so Enough Said and Pulling Strings don’t quite make the cut, though it should be said that the latter is another Instructions Not Included case of American interest in Mexican cinema. Only show the dunderheaded comedies that make Mexicans look like utter buffoons. I’ve also, for the sake of variety, excluded In a World… and Austenland from the list, their times of great success having passed as they cruise to a halt at $2.8 and $1.9 million, respectively. Now that that bit of housekeeping is out of the way, where are audiences finding interest on the indie scene? Why, a film about a white blonde girl playing guitar (Grace Unplugged), a new teen rendition of Romeo and Juliet, and a cutely titled film about inner city youths (The Inevitably Defeat of Mr. and Pete).

As is common in the indie Top 10, precedence is placed on youth-driven dramas or topical documentaries like Inequality for All, Linsanity or… Generation Iron, I guess. That’s not to say there isn’t a little dangerous living in the ghetto tiers. Escape From Tomorrow earned a generous enough following this weekend, for a film that seemed destined to never see the light of day, anyway. On the less hyped up end of the spectrum is We Are What We Are, the cannibal thriller that played Sundance to strong reviews and has since garnered a small devotion of viewers. Still, if the indie Top 10 is making you yawn ever so slightly, it gets kickstarted all over again next weekend with the premieres of 12 Years a Slave and All Is Lost, so get excited again!

1. Grace Unplugged (2nd Weekend: $524,000; Total: $1.8 million)
2. Romeo and Juliet (1st Weekend: $509,000)
3. The Inevitable Defeat of Mr. and Pete (1st Weekend: $260,000)
4. Inequality for All (3rd Weekend: $152,598; Total: $0.6 million)
5. Wadjda (5th Weekend: $108,569; Total: $0.6 million)
6. Generation Iron (4th Weekend: $75,770; Total: $0.6 million)
7. Escape From Tomorrow (1st Weekend: $66,112)
8. Linsanity (2nd Weekend: $51,500; Total: $0.2 million)
9. A.C.O.D. (2nd Weekend: $36,006; Total: $62,505)
10. We Are What We Are (3rd Weekend: $15,823; Total: $47,061)

What did you see in theaters this weekend? Let us know!

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