Baby Boomers Driving Box Office, But Can They Keep It Up?

Overlooked older audiences are driving “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips,” which went 1-2 again this weekend

The lack of intelligent films is a frequent complaint among mature moviegoers, but this fall has been different: The studios have been putting up, and older audiences have been showing up.

Is it a phase? Or can older audiences keep this up? Several more movies coming in the next few weeks will tell the story.

Baby Boomers have been the driving force at the box office of late, powering “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” – which went 1-2 again this weekend. Young audiences are catching up with “Gravity,” but initially, 82 percent of its audience was over 25, 60 percent over 35 – and that’s with 3D as the primary option.

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“12 Years a Slave” and “All Is Lost,” both of which skew older, hit theaters this past weekend, too, and will be expanding nationwide in the next few weeks. Focus Features debuts “The Dallas Buyers Club” on Nov. 1.

Those films are all in Oscar discussion, and that helps. But the smarter stuff has plainly mobilized the mature moviegoing masses.

“I think the success of those films piques interest in quality movies, and people get revved up to see some of these awards-contending films,” said Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions. His company rolled out “All is Lost,” starring 77-year-old Robert Redford, this past weekend.

The trend actually started earlier, with “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

“It became a huge hit when it arrived at the tail end of summer, after nearly three months of wall-to-wall popcorn flicks that, let’s face it, don’t require much synapse response,” said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock.

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counselorFox this week rolls out director Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor,” a smart thriller with an ensemble that includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem. Older audiences will be key to its success, and it should connect, Bock said.

But in a twist, all the adult, smart fare may be setting the stage for a hit that skews young and not-at-all smart, Bock said.

“‘The Counselor’ will definitely continue the streak, but I’m pretty sure the gratuitous dumbness of ‘Jackass: Bad Grandpa’ will rule the day — and weekend — as there hasn’t been anything substantial for teens and the college crowd since summer.”

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Still, audiences with a touch of gray have been front and center this fall.

CBS Films is banking on the trend continuing at least a couple more weeks, when it will open its comedy “Last Vegas” against the younger-skewing “Ender’s Game” and the family film “Free Birds” on Nov. 1.

“Vegas” stars Michael Douglas, 69, Robert De Niro, 70, Morgan Freeman, 76, and Kevin Kline, 66.

“I think it will be a hit,” Bock said, “and it could play through the holidays, as comedies are apt to do.”

That would make guys from “Last Vegas” bad-ass grandpas in their own right.