‘Gravity’ Beats ‘Captain Phillips’ to Repeat as Top Film

“Gravity,” the Warner Bros. space thriller starring Sandra Bullock, collected $43.2 million to repeat as the top movie in U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend, following its record debut for an October film.

“Captain Phillips,” a drama featuring Tom Hanks as a ship captain facing down modern-day pirates, took in $25.7 million for Sony Corp. to place second, Rentrak said today in an e-mailed statement.

Strong reviews and word-of-mouth have propelled “Gravity,” about two astronauts cast adrift after an accident, at the box office and in the eyes of pundits weighing Oscar contenders. The market has room for both “Gravity” and the Hanks film, which also has won critical acclaim, according to Phil Contrino, chief analyst for researcher BoxOffice.com.

“These are two highly rated, well-respected movies that have both benefited” from positive reviews, said Paul Sweeney, a media analyst for Bloomberg Industries, in a telephone interview. “It just shows you that A-list stars can still drive movies in Hollywood.”

Both films have been well received. At Rottentomatoes.com, which compiles movie reviews, 97 percent of critics rated “Gravity” “fresh,” while “Captain Phillips” generated 95 percent positive reviews.

Anchoring “Gravity” are Bullock’s performance and Alfonso Cuaron’s direction, which uses 3-D effects to depict the sensation of being in space.

‘Captain Phillips’

Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a new-to-space medical engineer, opposite George Clooney, a veteran astronaut who talks Stone through her panic when debris from a satellite hits the shuttle and damages it. The two are left floating in space and cut off from communications with Earth, while trying to make it to a space station before their oxygen runs out.

Made for $100 million, “Gravity” collected $55.8 million last weekend, a record for October, traditionally a quiet month at the box office. Over two weeks, the movie has brought in $122.3 million.

It’s also lifted Time Warner Inc.’s studio to No. 1 in domestic sales this year, moving ahead of Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures.

“Captain Phillips” is based on the true story of the hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates. It stars Hanks as Richard Phillips, the real-life captain of the ship.

Three Shots

Directed by Paul Greengrass, the British filmmaker behind the second and third films in the “Bourne” franchise from Universal, the movie casts the heroic figure of Phillips against the desperate plight of his captors.

After the ship was attacked by the pirates in April 2009, Phillips agreed to go with them to spare the crew. After five days in captivity, he was rescued from a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean as Navy snipers killed three pirates with three shots.

“Captain Phillips” was made for $55 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo, and was projected to collect $21 million for Sony, according to BoxOffice.com.

The film “has a vital moral immediacy,” wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. The movie “deepens, brilliantly, unexpectedly, into an unsettling look at global capitalism and American privilege and power.”

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” the animated sequel from Sony, dropped to third place from second, collecting $13.8 million. The movie, released on Sept. 27, has taken in $77.6 million to date in its domestic theatrical run.

‘Runner Runner’

Another new movie, “Machete Kills,” from Open Road Films, had sales of $3.84 million to place fourth. The action picture was projected to collect $7.5 million in its opening weekend, according to BoxOffice.com.

The follow-up to 2010’s “Machete” from Twentieth Century Fox, it again stars Danny Trejo as Machete Cortez, a secret agent who is recruited by the U.S. president, played by Charlie Sheen, to stop a power-mad arms dealer, Mel Gibson.

The movie, which was directed by Robert Rodriguez and also features Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga, faced critical reviews ahead of its opening, with just a 30 percent “fresh” rating from Rottentomatoes.

“Runner Runner,” the online poker movie from Twentieth Century Fox, fell to fifth place after its debut in third last weekend, collecting $3.77 million.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films fell 12 percent to $103.4 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Revenue year to date is up less than 1 percent to $8.41 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Oct. 11 to Oct. 13.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 GRAVITY            $43.2    3,660  $11,800  -23   $122.3    2
 2 CAPTAIN PHILLIPS    25.7    3,020    8,516   --     25.7    1
 3 CLOUDY WITH CHANCE  13.8    3,874    3,556  -34     77.6    3
 4 MACHETE KILLS        3.8    2,538    1,512   --      3.8    1
 5 RUNNER, RUNNER       3.8    3,026    1,246  -51     14.2    2
 6 PRISONERS            3.6    2,855    1,273  -37     53.6    4
 7 INSIDIOUS 2          2.7    2,156    1,262  -30     78.5    5
 8 RUSH                 2.4    2,130    1,120  -47     22.2    4
 9 DON JON              2.4    1,996    1,187  -43     20.2    3
10 BAGGAGE CLAIM        2.0    1,320    1,540  -50     18.2    3

Top 10 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $103.4 $117.2 -12

Year-to-date Revenue

2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $8,414 $8,340 +0.9 Source: Rentrak