Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office Decoded: Defying Gravity – How 3D & IMAX Boosted Gravity to the Biggest October Opening Ever

To see older or more recent box office top 10 breakdowns please go here.

So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: Gravity had the biggest October opening since such things were recorded, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 displayed a strong hold it its second weekend, Runner Runner failed to get past the start line, and everyone else was left duking it out for money from people whose local showing of Gravity was sold-out when they went to the theater.   

Let’s break it down:

Top 10 Estimates for the 10/4-10/6 Weekend Box Office (Domestic)

1. Gravity (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$55.5 million
  • Budget=$100 million

Foreign: $27.4 million from 27 foreign territories for a worldwide total of $82.9 million.  It also opened at #1 in Russia, Germany, Australia, Italy, and Spain.

3D ticket sales were so insignificant this summer that eventually some studios just quietly stopped announcing the percentage of weekend gross attributed to 3D sales.  This is a far cry from the format’s recent golden age when 3D sales turned Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland into an outsized hit just 3 years ago.  As such, Warner Bros. had their work cut out for themselves with 3D-dependent Gravity, but their massive marketing campaign successfully stressed the importance to see the film in 3D, preferably on IMAX.  80% of Gravity’s total domestic opening weekend gross came from 3D ticket sales, 20% from IMAX showings (regardless of 3D or 2D).  According to, this 3D share is even higher than the 71% for Avatar.

All of this served to launch Gravity to the top of the record book, earning not just the #1 October opening weekend since 1982 but also the #1 Fall (i.e., the day after Labor Day Weekend through the Thursday before the First Friday in November) opening weekend in the same time span.  However, by now we should know not to trust any such increasingly meaningless records.  So, let’s adjust for ticket price inflation and say that Gravity made the most money/sold the most tickets of any October release behind only Paranormal Activity 3Shark Tale ($62.5 million adjusted), and Scary Movie 3 ($65.1 million adjusted), finishing ahead of films like The Grudge, Red Dragon, and Taken 2.  So, actually, after you adjust for inflation this is a still damn impressive opening for Gravity – a risky, experimental film with a limited narrative still made almost as much as two popular sequels (Activity 3, Movie 3) and a family friendly animated movie (Shark Tale).

2. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2


  • Weekend Gross=$21.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$60.5 million
  • Budget=$78 million

Foreign: $8.1 million from 5 foreign territories this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $11.2 million and worldwide gross of $71.1 million.

Honestly, Gravity‘s monster debut didn’t leave much air left over for any of the other films.  The only film to record big business was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which managed an almost identical second weekend dip (36.8%) as the first Cloudy in 2009 (36.9%) and Hotel Transylvania (36.4%) from the same slot last year.  Unlike the animation heavy summer, there isn’t another family friendly animated film on the horizon for at least a month, leaving Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 without any direct competition.  It’s strong second week hold, and almost identical performance after 10 days to the first Cloudy projects to a final domestic gross in the $125 million territory.

3. Runner Runner (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$7.6 million
  • Budget=$30 million

Foreign: Opened in 24 foreign territories last week, including Hong Kong, Russia, and the U.K., before expanding to 8 additional foreign territories this weekend, including Brazil and Mexico.  The total foreign gross to date is $23.4 million for a combined worldwide gross of $31 million.

Maybe Batman fans organized a boycott against Ben Affleck’s new film Runner Runner as a protest against Warner Bros. casting  him as Batman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs. Superman?  Nah.  Runner Runner does not appear to be the type of film to inspire anything more than indifference.  Its tale of an online poker player (Justin Timberlake) getting in over his head simply didn’t appear to register with audiences, debuting flat at $7.6 million, below director Brad Furman already modest $13 million debut for his only prior film, The Lincoln Lawyer.  This is the lowest opening for any Justin Timberlake film to have opened on more than 1200 screens.  With an 8% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes and mere grade of C on Cinemascore, Runner Runner is sure to run straight out of the top 10 soon.  Luckily, the budget was pretty low at $30 million, a total it has already eclipsed in worldwide gross.

4. Prisoners 


  • Weekend Gross=$5.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$47.8
  • Budget=$46 million

Foreign: Currently playing in 19 foreign territories, most notably the U.K. but not major markets like Brazil, China, and Russia.  Total foreign gross to date is $14.1 million for a combined worldwide gross of $61.9 million.

It’s incredibly violent and surprisingly long (2 hr. 26 m.), but it stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal and has solid reviews (80% on RottenTomatoes) and decent word-of-mouth (B+).  Because of that, it was hard to know for sure how well Prisoners was going to perform after its big opening weekend.  Since then, it has dropped nearly 48% each weekend, which is a bit more than expected considering its stars and word-of-mouth.  At this rate, it will end up earning more than Gyllenhaal’s most recent, similarly critically admired films End of Watch ($41 million domestic) and Source Code ($54 million domestic).  The foreign and possibly eventually the home video market will ultimately determine if Prisoners ends up a financial failure or success.

5. Rush 


  • Weekend Gross=$4.4 million
  • Total Gross to date=$18 million
  • Budget=$38 million

Foreign: Now playing in 38 foreign territories where it has grossed $30 million for a combined worldwide total of $48 million.

Rush is simply not a movie meant for domestic box office success, mostly due to the Euro-sports-figures-centric story of two famed Formula 1 race car drivers.  However, director Ron Howard hasn’t sniffed a non-Dan Brown-adaptation hit since arguably A Beautiful Mind in 2003, and Chris Hemsworth is still unproven outside of Marvel films or Snow White & The Huntsman.  The hope Rush had was that the people who have seen it, including critics, seem to really like it, hopefully generating positive word-of-mouth.  That was only enough to earn a 56% drop in its second weekend, which is not great.  How is the rest of the world treating it?  Not surprisingly, they like it better, but not as much as you might expect, with it having already opened at most major foreign markets except for China and Russia.  It seems unlikely that its worldwide gross will rise substantially from this point forward.

6. Don Jon

Don Jon Tease Kiss

  • Weekend Gross=$4.16 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$16 million
  • Budget=$6 million

Foreign: $1.5 million total foreign gross from 9 foreign territories (most notably Russia) for a combined worldwide gross total of $17.5 million.

Don Jon‘s $4.16 million is so close to Baggage Claim’s $4.12 million that after the actual, non-studio estimated figures come in it’s certainly possible the two films could switch spots on the weekend chart.  Honestly, though, Don Jon only dropping 52% in its second weekend after earning a dreadful C+ grade from first night screening attendees on CinemaScore is a not as bad as expected.  However, it does confirm suspicions that Don Jon lacks the word-of-mouth necessary to keep pace with prior modest hits with Gordon-Levitt in a lead role (500 Days of Summer, 50/50, and Looper).  This is all actually far worse than it looks.  Relativity Media purchased Don Jon at Sundance for $4 million, and agreed to commit around $25 million to marketing. So, for a film likely to top out at $20 million domestic with dicey foreign prospects Relativity invested around $29 million. Ruh-roh. Keep in mind that this is the same distributor behind other 2013 flops The Family and Paranoia. It is encouraging to see them supporting a young filmmaker like Gordon-Levitt, and after Looper they must have thought Gordon-Levitt was on the verge of a true breakout hit. That hit, though was never going to be Don Jon, a smart, interesting, flawed film that in no way resembles the film Relativity promised with their advertising.

7. Baggage Claim


  • Weekend Gross=$4.12 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$15.1 million
  • Budget=N/A

Foreign: Not playing overseas yet, where it is only currently scheduled to be released in Italy, U.K./Ireland, and France.

Well, it opened last weekend slightly higher than the openings for prior African-American-targeted comedies Just Wright and Our Family Wedding, and has now in its second weekend dropped 54.3%, several percentage points more than those drops for Just Wright and Our Family Wedding.  All of this projects to a total domestic gross of around $20 million.

8. Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious 2 trailer (Screengrab)

  • Weekend Gross=$3.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$74.7 million
  • Budget=$5 million

Foreign:  $3.3 million in foreign gross this past week for a new foreign gross total of $12.5 million from 16 foreign territories (most notably the U.K.) and a combined worldwide gross total of $87.3 million.

At this point, Insidious has done all of its significant damage at the box office, managing to stick in the top 10 four weeks in a row.  The bigger story surrounding Insidious: Chapter 2 this week has been related to a corporate shake-up at Universal’s Focus Features, the speciality subdivision of the studio which had been responsible for releasing such indie-leaning films as Brokeback Mountain.  Focus has now absorbed FilmDistrict, Insidious‘s distributor, and appointed FilmDistrict’s President in the same role at a revamped Focus Features.  So, Hollywood has been watching FilmDistrict crank out micro-budget hits like Insidious and its sequel and clearly taken notice.  That inevitable third Insidious will now presumably go through Focus.

9. Pulling Strings (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$2.5 million
  • Budget=N/A

Foreign: Exclusively opened domestically, no foreign territories yet.

What’s weirder – that a Spanish-language film became a surprise hit last month by premiering with $10 million opening weekend despite playing on less than 400 screens, or that it has stuck around so long that we now have two Spanish-language films duking it out in the top 11?  Yep, distributor Lionsgate Films had a huge success with Instructions Not Included, which they were unable to completely replicated with Pulling the Strings in large part because Instructions Not Included is still in theaters offering direct competition and eating into business.  However, Pulling the Strings still performed admirably, playing on only 387 screens and earning the second best per-screen-average ($6,460) of any movie in the top 10, behind only Gravity.  It’s hard not to imagine Strings would have done even better if Instructions wasn’t still around, earning $1.8 million, enough to finish #11 for the weekend.

10. Enough Said


  • Weekend Gross=$2.1 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$5.3 million
  • Budget=N/A

Foreign: Only playing domestically with scheduled releases in the U.K./Ireland, Singapore, etc. in the coming weeks.

Finishing out the top 10 is another film playing in very limited release but pulling down a solid per-screen-average, Enough Said on 437 screens with a $4,920 per-screen-average.  To put it in context, this is actually a far better per-screen-average than fellow 2013 indie darling Blue Jasmine earned during its two non-consecutive weekends in the top 10.  This is a genuine word-of-mouth hit, likely boosted somewhat from featuring a posthumous performance from James Gandolfini.  Plus, the film’s female lead, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has a heightened profile at the moment having just won an Emmy Award for her HBO show Veep.


What Happened Outside of the Top 10?

Instructions Not Included, We’re the Millers, The Family, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler all left the top 10 for the first time.

What’s Up Next?: 

Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass combine their powers to see if they can steal some oxygen away from Gravity with Captain Phillips (10/11).  Less ambitious is Robert Rodriguez’ latest B-movie ode Machete Kills (10/4), which will hope to use massive stunt casting (Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson) to court a younger audience looking for mindless fun action.  Opening in limited release will be All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, and Romeo & Juliet.

Jeez, enough with the numbers already.


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