Weekend Report: Houston, 'Gravity' Does Not Have a Problem
With a strong marketing effort—and a boost from 3D ticket pricing—Gravity blasted off to a fantastic $55.8 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Runner Runner couldn't find its footing, and overall business wound up down 13 percent from the same weekend last year.

At 3,575 locations, Gravity's $55.8 million debut is a new opening weekend record for the month of October ahead of 2011's Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.6 million). It's also the highest start ever for stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney ahead of The Heat and Batman and Robin, respectively.

Recognizing that Gravity had huge commercial potential, Warner Bros. rolled out a blockbuster-level marketing effort in the past month. Advertisements played up the movie's unique setting and stunning visuals, and also positioned it as a thrilling, action-packed adventure. Leading up to the release, Warner Bros. started emphasizing the movie's critical reception, which was nothing short of fantastic (it currently has a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, Sandra Bullock was all over the place promoting the movie, which helped bring in more women than may otherwise have attended an action-packed sci-fi movie (46 percent of the audience was female).

Across all of the marketing, Warner Bros. managed to convey that Gravity was an experience that needed to be seen in a theater—preferably in 3D or IMAX. This helped get people out to theaters, and also got them to cough up an extra few bucks for 3D: according to Warner Bros., 80 percent of Gravity's opening weekend haul came from the premium-priced showtimes.

That 3D share is higher than any recent original movie, and is also ahead of Avatar (71 percent), which is essentially the godfather of 3D. Of course, Gravity had many more 3D screens available than Avatar did, so that's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Additionally, Gravity took in $11.8 million from 323 IMAX locations, which represented 21 percent of its weekend haul.

All signs point to Gravity having a very successful run from here. The movie was up 32 percent from Friday-to-Saturday, which suggests great word-of-mouth (as does its "A-" CinemaScore). Also, its audience skewed much older—59 percent over 35 years of age—which tends to be an indicator of long-term playability. Finally, the movie gets to hold most of its IMAX and 3D showtimes for the rest of October, which means the premium-priced tickets are going to continue to be the go-to option for audiences.

In second place, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 dipped 38 percent to $21 million. In comparison, Hotel Transylvania dropped 36 percent on the same weekend last year. Through 10 days, Cloudy 2 has earned a solid $60 million.

Playing at 3,026 locations, Runner Runner bombed this weekend with just $7.7 million. That's one of the worst openings ever for a movie in over 3,000 theaters. With the combined star power of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck—and a noticeable, albeit not particularly aggressive, marketing effort—it really should have opened better than this. Regardless of the cast, though, people aren't going to show up for a movie if it doesn't look like there's an interesting story, and Runner Runner's looked as generic as they come. It also didn't help that the movie was targeting adult audiences—the same ones, in fact, who turned out to Gravity in droves.

Runner Runner received an awful "C" CinemaScore from audiences, and it would be surprising if it earned much more than $20 million by the end of its run.

Prisoners dropped 47 percent to $5.75 million for a total of $47.9 million. Despite having strong reviews and word-of-mouth, Rush plummeted 55 percent to $4.5 million in its second weekend. To date, the movie has earned a weak $18.2 million.

Don Jon and Baggage Claim also had a tough time this weekend. Don Jon fell 52 percent to $4.16 million, and has so far earned a light $16.1 million. Meanwhile, Baggage Claim fell 55 percent to $4.1 million for a new total of $15.1 million.

At 387 locations, Pulling Strings opened in ninth place with $2.47 million. That's nowhere close to Instructions Not Included ($7.8 million), though it's above past Lionsgate/Pantelion moderate releases like Girl in Progress ($1.4 million).

Despite opening at 511 locations, Christian movie Grace Unplugged wound up just shy of $1 million. That wasn't as bad as JFK assassination movie Parkland, which brought in a meager $310,246 from 257 locations.

Metallica Through the Never expanded to 589 locations, but in the process lost most of its IMAX screens to Gravity. As a result, it plummeted 56 percent to $697,763. So far, the hybrid concert movie has earned just $2.7 million.

Around-the-World Roundup

Coinciding with its great domestic debut, Gravity opened to $28.4 million from 27 foreign markets. According to Warner Bros., roughly 70 percent of this gross came from 3D showtimes.

The movie took first place in Russia ($8.1 million), Germany ($3.8 million), Australia ($3.2 million), Italy ($2.6 million) and Spain ($2.3 million). With the exception of Japan (December) and China (undated, and unclear if it will get accepted), Gravity will expand in to the rest of its major markets within the next five weeks.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 took in $8.1 million this weekend for a very early total of $11.2 million. Its only major markets were Brazil and Mexico, where it opened with $3.25 million and $3 million, respectively. The first movie earned just $118 million overseas, which is a number that Cloudy 2 should be able to exceed.

The Lone Ranger opened in China, its final market, this weekend. It took in $7 million in two days, which is a fine start that doesn't do much to reverse this movie's fortunes. So far, The Lone Ranger has earned $165.9 million overseas; its worldwide total is now at $255.2 million, and it's unlikely that it will get to $300 million by the end of its run.

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'Gravity' to Orbit Above Competition This Weekend

This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2012 - 'Taken 2' Kills, 'Frankenweenie' Fails

• 2011 - 'Real Steel' Wins Middleweight Bout

• 2010 - 'Social Network' No Wallflower in Its Debut

• 2009 - 'Zombieland' Livens Up Horror Comedy Genre

• 2007 - 'Heartbreak Kid' Gets Hurt, 'Game Plan' Tops Again

• 2006 - 'Departed' Out-Muscles 'Massacre'

• 2005 - 'Were-Rabbit,' 'Gospel' Hoppin,' 'In Her Shoes,' 'Serenity' Droppin'

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