The Martian Blasts Off at the Box Office
By John Hamann
October 4, 2015
Matt Damon’s The Martian took off this weekend, but spent the frame trying to catch the impossible in space – Gravity. Sandra Bullock’s hit from two years ago remains October’s biggest film, but The Martian certainly gave it a run for its money.
The Martian, the latest film from sci-fi god Ridley Scott, almost had theaters to itself this weekend, save for an expanding Oscar chaser and a high-wire act that may become a horror story due to a fantastic plunge. The expanding film is Sicario, which lit it up in limited release with an almost $67,000 screen average on six screens and followed that up with an almost $30,000 average on 59 screens a weekend later. Sicario came into the weekend with $3 million in sales already, despite being out to only a handful of screens.
The Walk, on the other hand, is trying to replicate the success that Everest found on IMAX screens a couple of weekends ago, when the mountain climbing epic earned $7.2 million from 545 really big screens. The Walk is a different beast, though – less action-oriented, and doesn’t have a previous similar IMAX release like 1998’s Everest. That film earned $82 million over 117 weeks, and may have set the stage for the new Everest, which The Walk is lacking.
Our number one film of the weekend is The Martian, and with Hurricane Joaquin receding away from the mainland, the box office ended up pretty much whole for the weekend, despite some weather troubles in the Carolinas. The much anticipated release from Fox got started on Thursday with $2.5 million from previews, significantly more than Gravity’s preview total of $1.4 million.
The Friday number for The Martian came in at $18 million, but was more like $15.5 million, given the Thursday previews. Gravity, on the other hand, had a first day of $17.5 million, but was actually $16.1 million given the $1.4 million from previews. So, as a showdown between the two biggest October space dramas, the race was close and extremely interesting right off the top, with just a slight edge going to Gravity, which went on to earn $55.8 million over its opening weekend, the best ever for the month of October.
Before we dive into the weekend results for The Martian, let’s look at the remarkable similarities between it and Gravity. Obviously, both are star-driven spectacles with similar locations, and both films had excellent marketing campaigns (the edge has to go to Gravity in the marketing department, though). Both films received excellent reviews and are Oscar contenders – Gravity earned a 97% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes, whereas The Martian is currently 94% fresh at the site.
As for audience reaction, the Cinemascore for Gravity came in at an A-, while for The Martian, the score came in at a straight A. Gravity had great legs, so it is hard to understand how The Martian’s could be even better; however, that slight uptick in the Cinemascore could help The Martian as soon as this weekend, given the age of immediate media we live in. Could this drive The Martian’s Saturday higher than that of Gravity?