Gravity at box office: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney foil pirates

Written by Reuters | Mumbai | Updated: Oct 25 2013, 19:24pm hrs
Sandra Bullock GravityThe 3D outer space thriller Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney kept a tight grip on US and Canadian box offices. Reuters
Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space, held the top spot on movie charts for a second weekend, grabbing $44.3 million in domestic ticket sales in the opening weekend. The 3D outer space thriller kept a tight grip on US and Canadian box offices recently, eclipsing the debut of Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips in a battle between two Oscar hopefuls.

The continued pull of Gravity beat the $26 million opening for Captain Phillips, a drama starring Tom Hanks in a story based on the real-life hijacking of a US cargo ship. Animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 took the No. 3 slot, collecting $14.3 million, according to studio estimates.

Both Gravity and Captain Phillips earned glowing reviews and mentions as likely Oscar contenders. Gravity wowed critics with its 3D depictions of space and weightlessness, while Hanks won praise for his portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips, the man taken hostage when Somali pirates seized his ship in 2009. Ninety seven percent of critics recommended Gravity on the Rotten Tomatoes website, slightly more than the ninety five percent for Captain Phillips. In Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays a novice astronaut and engineer alongside George Clooney as the mission commander. After flying debris damages their shuttle, the pair are sent hurtling into space with depleting oxygen and remote chances of returning to Earth.

The movie took in record sales for an October weekend when it debuted a week ago. Filmgoers kept coming during the week, with many opting to pay for higher-priced 3D tickets. The film scored the best second weekend ever for an IMAX film with a take of $9 million, and North American sales for Gravity through Sunday reached an estimated $123.4 million, according to Warner Bros.

It's word-of-mouth, said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, explaining the film's remarkable performance, which included a drop of only 21 percent in receipts from the opening weekend which he said was a record for a wide-release film. "We're filling theaters in small, medium and large towns throughout North America, and our audience has really spread from (ages) eight to 80," Fellman added. Though it couldn't overcome Gravity, Captain Phillips exceeded predictions for a start of around $21 million. The film cost $55 million to make. "This was a terrific opening for Captain Phillips and we're just beginning," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' worldwide president of distribution.

Also this weekend, new action movie Machete Kills grossed $3.8 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing in fourth place. Danny Trejo plays Machete, a spy recruited by the U.S. government to stop an arms dealer planning to launch a weapon into space. A sequel to 2010-Machete, it was acquired by Open Road Films for less than $2 million. In fifth place, drama Runner Runner took in $3.7 million while the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama Rush fell to eighth place with only $2.4 million, for a total of only $22.2 million in its fourth week of release.

Gravity was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. Sony Corp's movie studio released Captain Phillips and Cloudy 2. Machete Kills was distributed by Open Road Films, a joint venture between theater owners Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc. Runner Runner was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a unit of 21st Century Fox. Rush was distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp.