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Weekend Box Office: One small step for man on wire, one giant leap for Martian kind

Sure, walking between the peaks of two skyscrapers is cool. But is it cooler than walking on the sandy surface of another planet? Given the choice between being transported 100-some stories off the ground and 33.9 million miles away, audiences pretty decisively chose the latter—though, to be fair, the former was only available to those within driving distance of an IMAX screen and with the cash to blow on the really-big-screen experience.

Released on roughly the same calendar weekend as another recent space odyssey that earned rave reviews on the fall festival circuit, The Martian fell less than a million shy of Gravity’s debut two years ago; the new film’s $55 million opening makes it the second-best October bow in box-office history—a near-record it achieved in spite of featuring a movie star who can’t stop sticking his foot in his mouth lately. The pro-science survival yarn has earned great reviews and some early award-season buzz, meaning that it should have no trouble sticking around through the rest of the month. What seems less likely is that it will surpass the earnings of Gravity, though last year’s celestial blockbuster, also featuring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, is within reach.

Speaking of crowd-pleasers directed by veteran craftsmen and shot by Dariusz Wolski, The Walk also premiered this weekend. Robert Zemeckis’ dramatized answer to Man On Wire made a disappointing $1.5 million on nearly 450 IMAX screens, considerably less than the $7 million or so that Everest raked in during its IMAX-only debut weekend. We’ll have to wait a few days to see if The Walk does better in general release, where Everest has struggled. But considering that Zemeckis’ film is basically a 90-minute build to a scene that begs to be witnessed on the biggest screen available, a standard-theater comeback seems somewhat unlikely.

For an example of a successful expansion from limited to wide release, look no further than Sicario, the A.V. Club-approved cartel movie that’s basically the polar opposite of a crowd-pleaser. It made a cool $12 million in its third week, doing solid business on some 2,600 screens, despite being the bleakest star-powered Hollywood thriller since Martian director Ridley Scott’s widely panned The Counselor. Of course, that wasn’t quite enough to earn Sicario the runner-up spot on this week’s charts, given the strong second-weekend showing of Hotel Transylvania 2, which lost less than a third of its audience, made another $33 million from indiscriminate parents, and inched towards the nine-digit mark. You want bleak? The words “Hotel Transylvania franchise” are enough to send any film lover into an existential funk.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

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