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Weekend Box Office: Gravity Attracts Record October Opening

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By Chris Kavan - 10/06/13 at 10:07 PM CT

Although the box office was bit down compared to the same period last year (by about 13%), you can bet that didn't matter much to Alfonso Cuarón, George Clooney or Sandra Bullock. It turns out that with a nice marketing effort, tremendous buzz and spectacular audience response, you have the perfect storm for box office success. While demographics always seem to point to the coveted young adult audience, it just goes to show that more mature movie goers can be just a big a factor when it comes to landing a top spot for films.


Not only was the marketing effort a success, but so was a push to make this movie an "experience" by watching it in 3D (and IMAX). At $55.6 million, Gravity overtook Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.6 million) as the highest-grossing October opening of all time. It was helped in large part from the expanded format as 3D accounted for a whopping 80% (in comparison Avatar was only 71% on its opening weekend) and of that IMAX brought in $11.2 million (or roughly 20% of the opening grosses). That is the best showing for a 3D in a long time. What's more, all signs indicate Gravity is going to have an exceptional run: the movie jumped 32% from Friday to Saturday, indicating great word-of-mouth - and it equated to an A- Cinemascore. The movie definitely skewed older (59% over 35) and that audience also tends to bring more longevity than younger audiences do. Add to that Gravity is also going to hold on to the IMAX and 3D screens through October and this could easily reach $150 million plus before it exits theaters.


The animated sequel fell to second place with a $21.5 million haul. The 37% drop is in line with the 36% drop Hotel Transylvania took in its second weekend. The film has so far earned $60.6 million and should cross the $75 million mark easily by next weekend en route to that $100 million total it should ultimately cross in a few weekends out. If it continues to hold up this well, it still has a shot of beating the original film's $124 million bow and with little in the way of direct family competition until November, it certainly has a good chance.


The weekend's other new big wide-release opening, also targeting an adult audience, was crushed at the box office. At just $7.6 million, Runner Runner wound up in the top 15 for worst openings in a film opening in 3000 or more theaters. It didn't matter that the film has Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake - it turns out a yawningly generic premise isn't going to attract people when the likes of Gravity are also vying for attention. Audiences responded with a pretty awful C cinemeascore meaning Runner Runner is likely to fall quickly out of the box office spotlight and it will be lucky to break the $20 million mark.


The well-received thriller dipped 48% (likely due to, once again, adult audiences being drawn to Gravity) and took in an additional $5.7 million. The movie edged ever-so-close to the $50 million mark and now stands at $47.88 million - also just edging over its $46 million budget. The movie is losing steam now, but for such a dark premise, this has to be seen as a nice result.


Despite some strong reviews, Rush took the biggest brunt of audience bleed-off due to Gravity. Dropping a hefty 56% in its third weekend out, it took in a meager $4.4 million and the total stands at just $18.1 million. It's likely to stall at under $30 million (as opposed to its $38 million budget) and its best hope lies in an international audience giving it a bigger boost.

Outside the top five: Although expanding to nearly 600 theaters, Metallica Through the Never was another victim of Gravity (mainly losing its IMAX screens) and dropped from 14th to 16th place with just $683.000 (down 57%) and a new total of $2.7 million. It has no chance of making back its $18 million budget.

Another Spanish-themed film, Pulling Strings, couldn't match the runaway success of Instructions Not Included, though it did manage an OK $2.5 million 9th place finish. Outside of Gravity, it still had the best per-theater average of any other top 12 film.

Next week another adult drama, Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips, will look to steal some thunder away from Gravity and we also get Machete Kills, which looks even more over-the-top than the original grindhouse throwback (though it's likely to attract less of an audience).


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