SUNDAY 9 AM, 7TH UPDATE: Warner Bros’ Gravity is big overseas, too. The 3D and IMAX space drama opened day and date in 27 markets and generated a big $27.4 million with 2.8M admissions from roughly 4,763 screens. The studio says the 3D showing “exceeded all expectations” and generated 70% of the grosses. Foreign grosses include Russia $8.1M, Germany $3.8M, Australia $3.2M, Italy $2.6M, Spain $2.3M, Taiwan $958K. Upcoming markets include Brazil (Oct. 11), Korea (Oct. 17), Mexico (Oct. 18), France (Oct. 23), UK (Nov. 8), Japan (Dec. 13).
The big get bigger despite an otherwise soft domestic weekend. Total moviegoing is $115M (-20% down from last year) with 2/3s of it coming from just the Top Two films both in 3D: newcomer Gravity and holdover Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. Alfonso Cuaron’s premium-priced space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is looking at a record-setting $55.5M weekend for what execs tell me is the largest October opening weekend of all time. Other records include the largest IMAX opening in October, largest openings ever for Bullock and Clooney, and 2nd largest for Cuaron. Good thing then Warner Bros Pictures chief Jeff Robinov took this script out of turnaround at Universal after Cuaron and his reps asked for it back when David Linde left. After all, Cuaron really freshened WB’s Harry Potter franchise with the Prisoner Of Azkaban. This Oscar-buzzed original thriller scripted by Cuaron with his son Jonas about astronauts with its dazzling VFX earned an impressive ‘A-‘ CinemaScore from audiences. So the studio is predicting it’ll have long legs. Pic did $17.5M Friday (including $1.4M for Thursday 10 PM late shows and Friday midnights), then bumped up +35% to $23.5M Saturday in what is a traditionally slow time at the domestic box office which has been lagging of late. “Would create a new window for a tentpole release,” Warner Bros Domestic Distribution czar Dan Fellman predicted Friday – and proved correct. Two of the studio’s previous Best Picture Oscar winners — The Departed (2006) and last year’s winner Argo — opened on the exact same weekend. Gravity already has the same awards buzz. With runs in 3,575 locations, it’s also important to note that a whopping 3,150 of those are premium 3D and did $44.2M and 323 IMAX which did $34.7M. It would be too simplistic to say that the enthusiastic reviews for Gravity were solely responsible for the 1.4% uptick in IMAX shares Friday morning — ending this week’s startling 10% drop. But the film took in $420,000 from 323 IMAX theaters in late shows so poised to provide a “noticeable jolt” to investor expectations, according to Wall Street analysts. Lots of debate over the budget of this pic ranging from $80M to $120M.
British producer David Heyman of eight Harry Potter films fame brought Cuaron aboard for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, but, this time around, it was Cuaron who asked Heyman to get involved on Gravity and produce it with him. Cuaron’s idea to take the spacecraft and flip it (because it was coming in top-up) took 10 weeks – one shot, two minutes, $100K. Film went from Comic-Con to all three big fall festivals – Venice, Telluride and Toronto – where it became one of the best reviewed films of 2013. Critics relished the rarity of a female-driven action movie where one character is alone for a lot of the time. As Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond predicted this week, “This bodes well for Warners’ upcoming Oscar campaign. One studio source said they expect at least 10 nominations including Best Picture, Actress, Director and of course across the board in below-the-line areas where the film is the odds-on favorite to actually win.” The marketing strategy was to “harness the visceral, intense, terrifying, beautiful, breathless experience of the film,” Warner Bros told me. “We leveraged the breakthrough visuals, the director’s pedigree, and the standout performances.” The TV, print, and online campaign launched theatrically in May with the 3D teaser trailer on the studio’s The Great Gatsby. In lieu of one main trailer, studio’s President of Worldwide Marketing Sue Kroll decided on 3 different ‘movie moment’ pieces playing with Wolverine. A final trailer further developed Bullock’s character with the ‘Don’t let go’ tagline and launched in September. An experiential website was built featuring a spacewalk of the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station.
Related: Can Gravity Producer David Heyman Finally Orbit The Oscars
Related: Venice: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull
Saturday was huge for #2 Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 from Sony Pictures, up 112% from Friday, and aided by sneaks of the studio’s Tom Hanks-starring true life thriller Captain Phillips. Toon ended with $21.5M with a strong -37% hold and new $60.5M cume. “The 800 sneaks of Captain Phillips look to be at least 75% of capacity with sell-outs reported in every major city,” Sony tells me. Looks good for Sony and Hanks who both need another hit.
In #3, Twentieth Century Fox/New Regency’s Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake starring thriller Runner Runner grossed just $2.8M Friday (including $200K for late shows before opening in 3,024 theaters) and +13% for $3.1M. Studio didn’t expect more than a meager $10M-$12M for the weekend but now that estimate has flatlined to $7.8M. Brad Furman directed this flop about the less-than-riveting realm of offshore online gaming that earned a dismal ‘C’ CinemaScore from audiences (who couldn’t get into Gravity?). Also, can we just declare Justin box office poison and be done with him? New Regency financed and produced the drama for what it claims is under $30M, knowing that domestic would underwhelm but international could be solid. Fox says that overseas the outcome is better: $23.6M gross. Pic still has 30 markets internationally to release, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Holland. Runner Runner was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, as well as its scripters Brian Koppelman & David Levien. The trailer debuted on the Yahoo homepage whhile the pic itself had a Las Vegas premiere at the Planet Hollywood Casino. Timberlake was central to the marketing campaign which sought to leverage his fanbase of over 26 million across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (As if that did any good…) The digital campaign also featured the first-ever official film site from Fox built on Tumblr while two emerging platforms were used – Stipple, an interactive photo application, and Videogram, an immersive video tool. No matter: pic bombed.
Coming in a surprise #9 from fewer than 400 theaters is another joint cross-cultural venture between Lionsgate and Televisa. Their Pantelion Films’ Pulling Strings follows success of Instructions Not Included, which last weekend became the highest grossing Spanish Language film ever released in the U.S. with a cume of $38.5M in its 5th weekend at the U.S. box office. With a story split between Spanish and English, the mariachi-flavored rom-com Pulling Strings set in Mexico City stars Jaime Camil and Laura Ramsey and surprisingly Stockard Channing and Tom Arnold directed by Pitipol Ybarra from a script with four credited screenwriters.
Here’s the Top 10 list based on Friday estimates:
1. Gravity 3D (Warner Bros) NEW [Runs 3,575] PG13
Friday $17.5M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $55.5M
2. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 3D (Sony) Week 2 [Runs 4,001] PG
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $9.4M, Weekend $21.5M (-37%), Cume $60.5M
3. Runner Runner (Fox) NEW [Runs 3,024] R
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7.9M
4. Prisoners (Alcon/Warner Bros) Week 3 [Runs 3,236] R
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.6M, Weekend $5.7M, Cume $47.8M
5. Rush (Imagine/Universal) Week 3 [Runs 2,308] R
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.0M, Weekend $4.5M, Cume $18.2M
6. Baggage Claim (Fox Searchlight) Week 2 [Runs 2,230] PG13
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $4.5M (-50%), Cume $15.5M
7. Don Jon (Relativity) Week 2 [Runs 2,422] R
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $4.2M (-49%), Cume $16.1M
8. Insidious: Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) Week 4 [Runs 2,607] PG13
Friday $1.1M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $74.6M
9. Pulling Strings [Pantelion/Lionsgate] NEW [Runs 387] PG
Friday $757K, Weekend $2.7M
10. Enough Said (Fox Searchlight) Week 3 [Runs 437] PG13
Friday $601K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $5.4M