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Gravity and the Box-Office Pull on the Oscars

Gravity's Clooney (left) and Bullock
Gravity's Clooney (left) and BullockPhotograph by Warner Bros. Pictures/Everett Collection

Propelled by gushing reviews and a plot that speeds along at orbital velocity, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, set a new October opening-weekend record with a $55.6 million bonanza. The explosive debut is likely to give the film surer footing in the year’s ongoing Oscar discussion, especially as Hollywood turns the corner into the fall movie season.

Several ambitious films are set to arrive on Gravity’s weightless heels: Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks’s anticipated portrayal of a real-life hostage to Somali pirates; 12 Years a Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a man sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South; and Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, with Michael Fassbender as a lawyer pulled into the shady world of drug dealers. The first true stress test of the films’ Oscar-worthiness will be their box office numbers. “Every year there are a lot of films that are trying to become part of the Oscar conversation,” says Keith Simanton, managing editor of “Often, box office can become a way to winnow down the ones that are on the bubble.”