Giving every box-office analyst the chance use their long pent-up space metaphors this morning, Gravity had a very successful liftoff—launching with a payload of $55.6 million, rocketing to first place where it easily soared above the competition, boosted by the afterburners of 3-D and IMAX ticket sales, orbiting around the pull of its stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in the cockpit, giving Warner Bros. mission control reason to celebrate, and dumping a frozen concentrate of astronaut urine into the stratosphere occupied by all other new movies.
It did really space-well, in other words, setting a new space-record for October openings, and guaranteeing that the 3-D event movie isn’t going anywhere by outperforming even Avatar in the percentage of premium tickets sold (80 percent to Avatar’s 71 percent). And, with such strong critical reception and continued word of mouth, even more will take the Gravity ride in coming weeks—so it’s imperative we’re all careful not to burn off our space wordplay too early, lest we be left adrift in the void, unable to bring our paragraphs in for a landing. And then something with the word “yaw” in it. Yaw better believe it? Well, we’ve got time to work on it.
Meanwhile, Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake’s Runner Runner essentially caught fire on the launch pad, debuting at third place with a dismal $7.6 million—a haul that’s all the more embarrassing for the film’s 3,000-plus theater count and its supposed combined star power. Alas, it turns out that—even amid the forced buzz of their respective Batman reports and album releases—the pairing of Affleck and Timberlake did not leave audiences curious to see the powderkeg of one affable rich guy pitted against another affable rich guy, all set against the exotic, thrill-a-minute world of Internet poker. The noticeable lack of previews that trumpeted “AFFLECK” and “TIMBERLAKE”—each separated by explosions—definitely didn’t help. Perhaps Fox could adopt a last-minute marketing strategy that plays up how, just like in Gravity, all the characters in Runner Runner are technically floating in space.
In other high-profile disappointments, Ron Howard’s Rush dropped 56 percent in its second week to fifth place, while the Tom Hanks-produced JFK assassination melodrama Parkland opened with just $335,000 in 257 theaters; the Apollo 13 team might have had a better weekend slipping into Gravity screenings and yelling out, “Houston, we have a problem!… Right? Remember?” during the quieter moments. Meanwhile, a crowd of indie films divvied up the specialty box office, with Pulling Strings continuing a successful year for Spanish-language cinema by opening in ninth place with $2.5 million (though it still couldn’t touch Instructions Not Included), Grace Unplugged using the awesome power of Christian faith and marketing to open in 15th place—where it took in almost as much money as We’re The Millers, praise be to God.
Elsewhere, the documentary Linsanity earned $103,000 in nine theaters full of people somehow not sick of that word yet, while A.C.O.D. took in $20,000 in three theaters full of coldhearted Parks And Recreation fans who hate to see Adam Scott and Amy Poehler in love. And finally, the Paul Giamatti/Paul Rudd almost-Christmas comedy All Is Bright averaged $410 per each of its 10 screens, confirming that the only silent nights audiences want to hear about in October are the ones Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are hurtling through.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.