Sony’s Tom Hanks piracy saga “Captain Phillips” steamed to $8.5 million on Friday and the Oscar hopeful is on pace for a better-than-expected $25 million opening weekend. It even received an “A” CinemaScore from first-night moviegoers.
But the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney 3D space saga “Gravity” stole the box-office show with a powerful $12.7 million Friday that puts director Alfonso Cuaron’s epic on pace for a $43 million second weekend.
Warner Bros. expanded “Gravity” into 3,660 theaters, with the vast majority 3D, and saw just a 27 percent drop-off from last Friday. Imax played a major part again, accounting for $2.5 million Friday.
The big second weekend puts a domestic total of $200 million in range, particularly if awards buzz kicks in as expected. After just over a week, “Gravity” is at $91 million domestically and has taken in more than $130 million worldwide.
Sony’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” was third after pulling in $3.3 million and the family film should wind up at $14.5 million. That will be way ahead of “Machete Kills,” the weekend’s other wide opener, which took in just $1.4 million Friday and is looking at a feeble $4 million total for the three days.
If “Captain Phillips” maintains its course this weekend, the saga of a U.S. freighter captured by Somali pirates will finish with a first weekend better than the $19 million that “Argo” managed last year. Ben Affleck‘s hostage drama was also up against a box-office juggernaut in “Taken 2,” but went to make $232 million globally and won the Best Picture Oscar.
The strong CinemaScore is good news for the long-term playability of “Captain Phillips” and Hanks, who could have his biggest box-office hit since 2009’s “Angels and Demons.” He voiced Woody in the blockbuster “Toy Story 3,” but misfired with “Cloud Atlas,” “Extremely Loud and Close” and “Larry Crowne.”
Starpower – or stunt casting, really – couldn’t save Robert Rodriguez’s R-rated exploitation action film “Machete Kills.” It featured Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson and Sofia Vergara – in a machine-gun bra, no less – along with Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez, but won’t come near the $11 million opening of the 2010 original.
Open Road has it in 2,538 theaters and first-night moviegoers gave it a “B-” CinemaScore.
The top three films dominated overall business, which is running roughly 10 percent behind the comparable weekend last year. Other than the top four films, none will top $2 million this weekend.