Drawing comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey and actual NASA missions (SPOILER ALERT: Sandra Bullock is not actually a licensed and bonded astronaut), Gravity lept into the box office void this weekend like two astronauts leaping into the inky blackness of space. And, my God, it’s full of stars—and money! Alfonso Cuarón’s space thriller starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock earned a whopping $55.5 million in an impressive debut, the best October opening weekend in history. A crucial part of its success: 80% of its tickets were for “premium-priced showtimes”—3-D, or IMAX, or both. With a solid A- CinemaScore, the future is so bright for this movie, Cuarón and company need to wear those cool astronaut helmet visor thingies.
In a distant second place this week was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, which grossed $21.5 million. Though it trailed far behind Gravity, Cloudy 2 dropped just 36.8% in week-to-week earnings, and is benefitting from a marketplace light on animated movies. In ten days at the box office, the film has made $60.5 million domestically, duplicating the first film’s box office trajectory ($60.4 million in ten days) almost exactly.
The news was less positive for Fox’s Runner Runner, which showed well back of Gravity and Cloudy 2 with just $7.6 million in its first weekend of release. Directed by Brad Furman, and starring Justin Timberlake and Ben “Where’s your Batman now?!?” Affleck, Runner Runner struggled to attract viewers opposite a hugely anticipated fall movie, and (at least in this humble observer’s opinion) suffered from a confusing and unappealing title. (“What’s it about? Is Timberlake a marathon runner? Are they both marathon runners? Are they gun runners? Are they marathon running gun runners?”) On the plus side, the film has already grossed over $23.4 million overseas against a budget of $30 million, so true box office bomb status seems unlikely.
Fourth and fifth place this week belonged to Prisoners and Rush, which grossed $5.7 and $4.4 million respectively. The former, a Hugh Jackman kidnapping thriller, is now up to $47.8 million domestically in three weeks of release; the latter, a Chris Hemsworth racing biopic, is up to $18.0 million in two weeks of wide release. For the curious: the highest grossing movie released in September this year was Insidious: Chapter 2, with $74.5 million domestically.
Besides Gravity, which averaged a whopping $15,538 at over 3500 screens, the per-screen average winner of the week was Linsanity, a documentary about pro basketball phenom Jeremy Lin. The film earned $103,000 at nine theaters; good for a PSA of $11,444. Not far behind, A.C.O.D., a romantic comedy from Sundance starring Adam Scott, earned $20,000 at just three screens nationwide.