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.