Monday, October 21, 2013

'Gravity' holds strong amid weak box office

To no one’s very great surprise - albeit to much industry excitement - Gravity completed another successful box-office orbit this past weekend. With yet another $30 million haul, the intergalactic thriller has now earned over $170 million in domestic sales.  At 28%, its fiscal drop was a little steeper this weekend (compared with last weekend’s dip of 23%), but at this point in the film’s wildly successful run, focusing on five percentage points is akin to splitting hairs.

Furthering the déjà vu nature of today’s roundup, Captain Phillips again clocked in at No. 2. Tom Hanks’ suspense tale suffered from a larger slip in sales than Gravity did during its sophomore outing: Down 33%, to gross $17.3 million. In all, the Paul-Greengrass directed, modern day-pirate touting, Oscar-chasing Phillips has earned $53.3 million.

Unfortunately, it seems the rest of the domestic box office offered little audience incentive. Even with Halloween right around the corner, the lone horror feature, Carrie, proved itself unable to scare up business. The film didn’t perform nearly as poorly as the worst of the box-office naysayers had predicted Friday morning, though neither did it justify those optimists who thought (wished?) it could compete with Gravity. Instead, Carrie made an all right $17 million. Compared with Gravity, which skews slightly male, and Phillips, which draws an older crowd, those viewers who did see Carrie were mostly female (54%) and under the age of 25 (56%). Maybe it’ll fare better when it streams on Netflix?

Rounding out the top five (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 took the No. 4 slot with another solid weekend, earning $10 million to boost its overall gross to $93.1 million) Escape Plan earned roughly $9.8 million. The mostly male audience (66%) was also mostly over the age of 30, neatly aligning the Stallone/Schwarzenegger vehicle with this weekend’s theme of “to no one’s great surprise.”

Well, almost no one. Even given The Fifth Estate’s middling reviews, fans of Benedict Cumberbatch may not have expected the film to fare quite as poorly as it did. Apparently, American audiences found little of interest in the Julian Assange/WikiLeaks feature. The Fifth Estate raked in just $1.5 million, earning the lowest gross of any film that opened in over 1,500 theatres this year.
Thankfully for Cumberbatch, his other movie out this weekend, 12 Years A Slave, managed to exceed expectations. On Friday we speculated the film might make $30,000 or so at each of its 19 locations. This morning we learned Steve McQueen’s latest, acclaimed feature averaged $50,000 per theatre. Its total weekend haul amounts to $960,000, a wonderful start for an art-house flick. Fox Searchlight will screen the film in 100 more theatres this coming weekend.

Fellow critical darling All Is Lost may end up competing with Slave at the Academy Awards, but it proved itself a weak opponent at the box office. Robert Redford’s one-man drama took in just $97,400.

To pull the camera out, so to speak, and take a wider view of this weekend’s earnings: Those films that made up the top 12 earned a total of $96.4 million. Even given the endurance of Gravity’s run, that number still signals a 20% drop in earnings from this time last year. Let’s see if this coming weekend can improve October’s outlook.

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