The astronaut drama Gravity beat out the crime thriller Runner Runner to smash records for opening weekends in October and give stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney each their best ever opening weekend as well. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s terrifying suspense drama about NASA astronauts in orbit capitalized on great publicity and reviews, as well as a substantial marketing campaign by Warner Brothers.
Studio estimates place the film’s opening at $55.6 million in North America, which beats a two-year old record set by Paranormal Activity 3’s $52.6 million debut weekend take in 2011.
Runner Runner, starring Justin Timberlake with a reportedly scene-stealing performance by Ben Affleck as the villain, took in a relatively anemic $7.6 million and received far less favorable reviews. The gambling thriller tells the story of college student Justin Timberlake being lured into a scam by Ben Affleck, who plays the owner of an Internet poker and gambling site.
The lower budget Runner Runner doesn’t need to make as much money to turn a profit as Gravity, since the former was made for $30 million and Cuaron’s special effects driven space movie cost $100 million. Gravity made back more than half its budget in its first few days, and is considered to be a likely competitor for this year’s award season.
The vast majority of those who watched Gravity did not view it in traditional film format. While 3D movies have declined in attendance, Gravity made 80 percent of its ticket sales revenue from 3D showings. This high percentage of 3D viewers beats even Avatar (with 72 percent) and Life of Pi (with 68 percent).
Imax screens also accounted for a record-setting percentage of the film’s revenue on opening weekend, generating 20 percent, a total of $11.2 million. This represents the 9th highest Imax opening in history, and also the large screen format’s best ever October opening.
To Bullock, who has a lot more screen time than Clooney, Gravity’s smash October opening beats not only Runner Runner but also a personal weekend record she set earlier this year, taking in $39.1 million for the debut of her and Melissa McCarthy’s buddy-cop comedy The Heat.
The 90-minute film had an older audience than many hit fllms, with 82 percent of its audience over age 25 and 60 percent over 35, and a sizable jump on Saturday, perceived as the day when more adults become available. It also seems to have attracted fans who don’t normally enjoy science fiction as well as those who do.
The film’s almost universally positive reviews are also a somewhat unique phenomenon. It has a practically unheard of 98% at the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and polling indicates 91% of moviegoers were also happy with the film.
One particularly remarkable older fan gave the movie his seal of approval: astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to ever walk on the moon. In a guest review for The Hollywood Reporter, Aldrin said he was “so extravagantly impressed” by the film’s realism, especially in its portrayal of zero Gravity. Aldrin also added that he felt the film “couldn’t have come at a better time,” given that America recently mothballed NASA’s manned space exploration program. “From my perspective,” Aldrin wrote, “this movie couldn’t have come at a better time to really stimulate the public. I was very, very impressed with it.”
Given the ease with which the smash-hit Gravity set a new October opening weekend and beat Runner Runner, the only other new movie to debut this week, the American public seems just as impressed as Aldrin.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing