Weekend Wrap-Up

Gravity Remains Aloft as Captain Phillips Set Sail

By John Hamann

October 13, 2013

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What is happening? Two consecutive weekends with star-driven, adult dramas succeeding at the box office? Has North America gone mad?

Following an amazing weekend in the last frame where Gravity exploded to $55.8 million, setting an October record for a non-sequel and biggest debuts ever for stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Tom Hanks arrives on the scene this weekend with Captain Phillips. Both of these films are Oscar contenders, both star-driven, and both after the adult demographic - so much so, it left me wondering if the two would cannibalize each other. We were given a preview of this matchup last weekend, as Sony held a sneak for Captain Phillips on Saturday night, and saw fantastic results despite Gravity setting records over the same frame. For Gravity, the second weekend is all about the hold; if it held two-thirds of its opening weekend box office, it would indicate a breakout success and a trip toward $200 million. As for Captain Phillips, Sony needed an opening at least similar to that of Prisoners, which debuted to $20.8 million four weekends ago, just to stay in the Oscar conversation.

Our number one film of the weekend is no surprise. The top film is Gravity, and the title in no way relates to its box office performance. Despite a very solid debut for the good Captain, Gravity continued to hit stratospheric notes at the box office. Normally, a film that opens in the $55-$60 million area can expect a fairly big drop. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp version) opened to $56.2 million, and dropped 49.7% in its second weekend. Charlie was in no way a flop; it went on to earn more than $200 million at the domestic box office. Rise of the Planet of the Apes opened to $54.8 million, and dropped 49% on its way to $176.8 million. Mission: Impossible II opened to $57.8 million and dropped 53% in its second weekend. Gravity though has more cachet, so Warner Bros. was likely looking for a $37 million gross this weekend, which would equal about a 33% loss from last weekend. That would make the $100 million film a blockbuster, and push it further into the memories of Academy voters.


With a Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving assist, Gravity did better than anyone thought likely, changing the game as we know it for the second straight weekend. In its second outing, Gravity earned an amazing $44.3 million and garnered a drop of only 20.7%. Gravity now not only holds the record for an October release, but also managed something truly historic.

On the surface, a 20.7% drop sounds great. For a movie that opens to $50+ million, it borders on record-setting. Consider that only four other such mega-openings dropped 21% or less in their second weekends. Those titles are Avatar (2% second weekend decline), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (7% second weekend decline) and Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace (20.7% second weekend decline). And if we round down, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers can be included due to its 21.2% second weekend decline. In other words, Gravity is tied for the third best second weekend decline for a $50+ million opener.

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