Sci-Fi Epic ‘Gravity’ Is No. 1 Movie With Record October Open

“Gravity,” the science-fiction epic starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, collected $55.6 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking first place in its debut for Warner Bros. It was a record opening for October.

“Runner Runner,” the online-poker movie from Twentieth Century Fox featuring Justin Timberlake, took in $7.6 million to place third, Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

“Gravity,” about two astronauts cast adrift after a satellite explodes, won stellar reviews for Bullock’s performance and the direction of Alfonso Cuaron, who uses 3D effects to depict the sensation of being in space. A strong box-office run would be a boon for Time Warner Inc., which is running a close second to NBC Universal this year with gross sales of $1.36 billion.

“‘Gravity’ did significantly better than expected,” said Paul Sweeney, director of research for Bloomberg Industries. “It’s the combination of two A-list stars No. 1; No. 2, very positive reviews; and No. 3, the expectation that there’s some really exceptional production value.”

“Gravity” beats the record set by “Paranormal Activity 3” in October 2011, when it had sales for $52.6 million.

Like last year’s Oscar contender “Life of Pi,” “Gravity” deals with the themes of isolation and desperation, rendering the action with three-dimensional visuals.

Clooney, Bullock

The movie was made for $100 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and was projected to take in $42 million this past weekend, the estimate of, another researcher.

Warner Bros. was anticipating “Gravity” to debut at $35 million, a conservative estimate, researcher SNL Kagan said in a note last week.

The film features Clooney as Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut, and Bullock as Ryan Stone, a new-to-space medical engineer, who find themselves cut off from Earth and floating when debris from a satellite hits their shuttle and damages it. The duo face one life-threatening challenge after another as they try to reach a space station before their oxygen runs out.

Cuaron, who co-wrote the film with his son, was praised by critics for conjuring the wonder of space as projected by Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” 45 years ago, as well as the terror of it, shown in Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”

The film tethers “almost unfathomably complex techniques -- both digital and analog -- to a simple narrative,” wrote A.O. Scott, in the New York Times.

Poor Reviews

“Runner Runner” stars Timberlake as Richie Furst, a Princeton graduate student who loses his tuition fees playing online poker, suspects he was cheated and travels to Costa Rica to confront the operator of the online gambling site, played by Ben Affleck.

Made for $30 million, according to Box Office Mojo, the film faced poor reviews. Affleck recites his lines “as though even he can’t follow the plot,” wrote Greg Evans, a critic for Bloomberg News. “Runner Runner” was projected to collect $11 million by

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” the animated sequel from Sony Corp., dropped to second place with $21.5 million.

Featuring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris and Will Forte, the PG-rated movie has been well received in reviews for the quality of its animation and its visual humor.

Revenue Falls

“Prisoners,” starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, fell to fourth place from second last week with $5.7 million. The suspense thriller from Warner Bros., about a father whose daughter is kidnapped, has been buoyed by reviews praising the force of the performances of its lead actors.

“Rush,” Ron Howard’s Formula 1 racing movie by Universal, placed fifth with $4.4 million, after taking third last weekend. Starring Chris Hemsworth, it recounts the 1970s Formula 1 racing rivalry between the late James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 13 percent to $115 million from the year-earlier period, said. Attendance year-to-date is down 3 percent, while revenue is up less than 1 percent to $8.3 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Box-Office. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
1 GRAVITY              $55.6   3,575  $15,538   --    $55.6   1
2 CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE  21.5   4,001    8,502   -37    60.6   2
3 RUNNER, RUNNER         7.6   3,026    2,512   --      7.6   1
4 PRISONERS              5.7   3,236    3,358   -48    47.9   3
5 RUSH                   4.4   2,308    4,339   -56    18.1   3
6 DON JON                4.2   2,422    3,583   -52    16.1   1
7 BAGGAGE CLAIM          4.1   2,030    4,449   -54    15.2   2
8 INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2   3.9   2,607    2,513   -41    74.7   4
9 PULLING STRINGS        2.5     387    6,460   --      2.5   1
10 ENOUGH SAID           2.2     437    4,803     2     5.4   3
11 INSTRUCTIONS NOT      1.9     858    4,039   -47    41.3   6
12 WE’RE THE MILLERS     1.6   1,606    1,748   -43   144.9   9

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $115.0        $132.7        -13

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2013          2012
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $8,282.7      $8,244.3     +0.5

Year-to-date Attendance:        -3%

Source: Box-Office
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