North America: Studio Weekend Estimates: 'Gravity' Sets New October Opening Weekend Record with $55.55M; 'Runner Runner' Stumbles with $7.6M (5th Update) on October 04, 2013


Sunday Update: Warner's Gravity broke out this weekend with an estimated first place take of $55.55 million. The Alfonso Cuarón directed sci-fi drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney set a new unadjusted opening weekend record for the month of October, which was previously held by 2011's Paranormal Activity 3 with $52.57 million. When adjusting for ticket price inflation, 2003's Scary Movie 3 is still on top with an adjusted debut of $65.11 million (from an actual gross of $48.11 million). Thanks in part to a growing number of strong critical reviews, expectations had been rising for Gravity in the weeks leading up to its release. The film ultimately soared above those rapidly rising expectations this weekend, with the mentioned strong reviews, a strong marketing campaign, Sandra Bullock's presence (which helped the film's audience expand beyond that of many other sci-fi films this year) and very strong sales in the higher priced 3D and IMAX formats all being major factors in the film's opening weekend success.

IMAX grosses were responsible for $11.23 million (20.2 percent) of the overall grosses for Gravity this weekend. Meanwhile, 3D grosses accounted for a very strong 80 percent of the film's overall weekend gross. Gravity skewed towards male moviegoers (54 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers over the age of 35 (59 percent). In addition to setting an unadjusted opening weekend record for the month of October, Gravity also represented the largest unadjusted debut ever for both Bullock and Clooney.

Moving beyond this weekend, early signs are very promising for Gravity going forward. Gravity opened with $17.53 million on Friday (with just an estimated $1.4 million of that figure coming from late night Thursday shows), increased a very strong 31.5 percent on Saturday to gross $23.05 million and is estimated to fall 35 percent on Sunday to take in $14.98 million. That gave the film an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 3.17 to 1, which is especially encouraging for an opening weekend performance of this size. Gravity received an A- rating on CinemaScore and in general Bullock's recent films have a strong history of holding up well at the box office. Continued IMAX grosses, skewing towards older moviegoers and the relatively short running time of the film will also help the holding power of Gravity.

Gravity represents another strong performer for Warner Bros. in recent months. After a rough start to 2013, the studio has rebounded in a big way with the domestic performances of 42, The Great Gatsby, Man of Steel, The Conjuring, We're the Millers and now Gravity.

Sony's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 fell to second place with an estimated $21.5 million. The 3D computer animated sequel was down 37 percent from last weekend. While that was a solid second weekend hold in its own right, the decline was significantly larger than the 17 percent second weekend decline of 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The film's decline was much more in line with the 36 percent second weekend decline of last year's Hotel Transylvania. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 has grossed $60.56 million in ten days. The film is currently running 20 percent behind the $76.11 million ten-day start of Hotel Transylvania and nearly on par with the $60.47 million ten-day take of Cloudy 1. With no new competition for family audiences throughout the rest of October, expect Cloudy 2 to hold up stronger going forward.

Runner Runner landed in third place with a disappointing estimated debut of $7.6 million. The crime thriller starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck opened below pre-release expectations, which had already been scaled back due in part to very poor reviews and in part to the growing pre-release enthusiasm for Gravity. In addition to opening against Gravity, Runner Runner also wasn't helped out by the number of other films aimed at adult moviegoers in recent weeks. Runner Runner debuted 37 percent below the $12.05 million start of In Time, which also starred Timberlake and was released by Fox in October of 2011. While Affleck didn't direct or produce Runner Runner, the film's performance is obviously still especially disappointing given that it was Affleck's first wide release following Argo.

Runner Runner grossed $2.75 million on Friday, was up 9 percent on Saturday to gross $3.00 million and is estimated to fall 38 percent to take in $1.85 million on Sunday. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.76 to 1. In addition to the negative reception from critics, audiences don't appear to be warming up to Runner Runner either, as the film received a C rating on CinemaScore.

With the breakout performance of Gravity this weekend, holdovers aimed at adult moviegoers understandably didn't hold up very well. Warner's Prisoners fell 48 percent to take fourth with an estimated $5.7 million, Universal's Rush fell 56 percent to place in fifth with $4.41 million, Relativity's Don Jon was down 52 percent to finish in sixth with $4.16 million and Fox Searchlight's Baggage Claim declined 54 percent to land in seventh with $4.13 million. Respective total grosses stand at $47.88 million for Prisoners, $18.09 million for Rush, $16.08 million for Don Jon and at $15.19 million for Baggage Claim.

On the limited front, Lionsgate's Pulling Strings grossed an estimated $2.5 million from 387 locations. That gave the comedy from Pantelion Films a per-location average of $6,460 for the frame. On the heels of the recent breakout success of Instructions Not Included, the opening weekend performance for Pulling Strings was a solid one, as it represented the second largest debut to date for Pantelion Films. Like Instructions Not Included, Pulling Strings also received an A+ rating on CinemaScore. With the added competition from Pulling Strings, Instructions Not Included did take a hit this weekend. The Eugenio Derbez comedy vehicle fell 47 percent to gross $1.85 million. The 38-day total for Instructions Not Included stands at $41.27 million.

Saturday Update: Warner Bros. reports this morning that Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity debuted to an impressive $17.525 million on Friday, including Thursday night's $1.4 million grosses and $3.61 million from IMAX. That puts the dramatic sci-fi pic on pace for $52 million this weekend--topping 2004's Shark Tale ($47.6 million) as the best October debut for an original film. Overall, Gravity is aiming for the best October weekend, currently held by Paranormal Activity 3's $52.6 million.

WB's aggressive marketing succeeded in spades for the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney flick, both of whom claim new career highs with the film (topping $42.9 million for Clooney's Batman & Robin and $39.1 million for Bullock's The Heat). The studio pitched the groundbreaking visual effects-driven film as a fall event for audiences in the wake of phenomenal critical responses out of last month's film festivals. Early word of mouth among regular moviegoers appears strong, too: CinemaScore came in at a strong "A-" while the film's Flixster user rating has risen from 90 to 91 percent over the past day. With awards buzz assured to follow at this point, Gravity is poised to enjoy a healthy box office run throughout the fourth quarter.

The weekend's second opener, Runner Runner, struggled to gain in traction in the shadow of Gravity. The Justin Timberlake-Ben Affleck thriller pulled a tepid $2.75 million on Friday (including $200k from Thursday night). Poor critical reviews may have contributed to this disappointing opening, but overall general audiences didn't seem interested in giving Affleck a chance as the villain of a film. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake's drawing power at the box office again proves minimal. Runner Runner is on track to bank just $7.7 million this weekend--marking Affleck's lowest debut for a wide release since 2006's Hollywoodland ($5.9 million) and falling well short of Timberlake's In Time ($12.1 million). The film's CinemaScore is "C", while Flixster users have voted the flick down to a dismal 37 percent score.

Friday Update #3: Sources now tell BoxOffice that Gravity could end up with as much as $48 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Runner Runner seems poised to end up slightly below $10 million. 

Official estimates coming tomorrow morning...

Friday Update #2: Sources tell BoxOffice that Gravity is headed for an opening north of $40 million based on the strength of early Friday grosses. That's an excellent start for the space thriller. Gravity is already beloved by critics, but now paying audiences are falling for it as well. If word of mouth explodes this weekend, then don't be surprised if Gravity hits $45 million. 

Runner Runner looks poised for an underwhelming debut somewhere between $10 million-$12 million. That's a poor start for a film that boasts the combined star power of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. 

Check back tomorrow for official studio estimates and updated weekend projections. 

Friday Update: Warner Bros. reports that Gravity took in a healthy $1.4 million from Thursday evening shows. 

The opening marks a promising start for a film that isn't part of an established franchise. It's clear that enthusiastic reviews from the majority of critics--Gravity currently boasts an impressive 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes--is having a positive impact. Warner Bros. couldn't get better reviews if they hired someone to write them.

Nearly 52,000 Flixster users have combined to give the space thriller an impressive 90% approval rating--an early sign that word of mouth is going to be strong. We expect Gravity to start off well on Friday and then really surge on Saturday. Our weekend forecast is $42 million.

ANALYSIS: Universal Dates 'Ted 2'; Does Summer 2015 Really Need Another Blockbuster? on October 02, 2013

ted2.pngBy Shawn Robbins

Pop culture comedy fans, rejoice! Universal Pictures announced this morning that Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2 will bow on Friday, June 26, 2015. The original film grossed a stellar $218.7 million domestically and $330.6 million overseas. A sequel was a foregone conclusion after last year's stunning $54.4 million opening weekend.

How will Ted 2 affect the evolving Summer 2015 schedule?

Make no mistake: this is a smart play on Universal's end. For all the blockbusters currently positioned between May and September 2015, this is the first R-rated comedy on the calendar. Given how well films such as The Heat, We're the MillersTed itself, Bridesmaids, and Horrible Bosses have done over the last few summers, moviegoers are clearly demanding more adult-oriented laughers during the lucrative season. Remember how well The Hangover Part II opened in 2011 off the heels of the original's phenomenal reception? Ted 2 is poised to accomplish something very similar.

Ted 2's placement may have an adverse effect on previously established July releases, though. The Terminator reboot and Independence Day 2 are, respectively, slated for July 1 and July 3 openings, and two Fridays later will see the launch of Zack Snyder's still-untitled Superman/Batman flick. Combined with June's Jurassic World and Assassin's Creed, male action fans will get more than their fill of options at the box office. The danger studios now risk is a fate which crippled some of Summer 2013's highest profile flicks: the likes of White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and Pacific Rim faltered domestically in the wake of Man of Steel and World War Z during a string of five consecutive weekends where audiences quickly burnt out on adrenaline rushes.

Interestingly, August 2015 is still barren as no studio has staked a claim in that month (and, of course, everyone is avoiding May thanks to Avengers: Age of Ultron). It seems unlikely that Fox would re-position Independence Day 2, however, Paramount would be wise to consider August for Terminator. Being sandwiched in between Ted 2 and ID4-2 won't be a good way to reinvigorate that franchise, and the final month of summer has proven that it can house solid box office runs through the likes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Bourne sequels.

As always, let the game of release date musical chairs play on.

Phil Contrino contributed to this report

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September 2013 Domestic Market Analysis: 'Insidious Chapter 2', 'Prisoners', & August Holdovers Lead End of Q3 on October 02, 2013

sep13.pngBy Shawn Robbins

2013's third quarter came to a close on Monday, and for the fifth straight month this year improved upon 2012's performance. September banked $572.8 million at the box office, up a hairline 0.2 percent from the same month last year. It marked the second best ever September gross behind 2011's $604.16 million.

FilmDistrict's Insidious Chapter 2 won the month with $69.7 million in its first 18 days of release. Among September's releases, Riddick and Prisoners were in tow with $40.2 million and $39.4 million, respectively. However, August holdovers Lee Daniels' The Butler ($42.0 million) and We're the Millers ($37.9 million) were equally as strong with fantastic word of mouth propelling each flick beyond summer's end. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 also contributed with its $34 million opening weekend. Not to be forgotten is Lionsgate's Spanish comedy sleeper, Instructions Not Included, which tallied an impressive $34.1 million throughout its September expansion.

Attendance-wise, September saw slightly fewer moviegoers visit their local cinema for a second straight year as estimated ticket sales dipped 2.2 percent from 2012's comparable month. That follows last year's 5.7 percent decline from September 2011. Since 1993, only two Septembers (2008 and 2010) have posted lower attendance than this past month.

In fairness, such a slide was generally expected after summer's massive success. Moviegoers are beginning to embrace the theatrical experience on a more consistent basis again, but disposable income is still tight for most Americans. 

On the bright side, 2013 as a whole is still pacing ahead of last year by 0.9 percent. The year-to-date domestic box office stands at $8.164 billion, marking the first time in which non-adjusted revenue has eclipsed $8.1 billion before the fourth quarter. That's great news for an industry expecting big things from the upcoming holiday season--not to mention a promising October ahead.

Looking ahead: Last October was built around the dominance of Liam Neeson's Taken 2 (which earned $119 million in its first 27 days), the kind of anticipated sequel that October 2013 lacks. Hotel Transylvania, Looper, Pitch PerfectArgo, Sinister, and Paranormal Activity 4 all played big roles in the month's $672.39 million market gross last year, a figure that could be tough for October 2013 to reach.

Still, we expect strong box office performances from early awards favorites Gravity (opening October 4) and Captain Phillips (October 11). Following those star-driven thrillers, the Carrie remake (October 18) is this Halloween season's unchallenged horror offering while Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (October 25) will aim to continue that franchise's decade-long success. The current first place flick, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, has no competition for its family audience until November, so expect that sequel to hang around for awhile.

Grosses reported in this article represent September 1-September 30, 2013 unless otherwise noted.

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