By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood October 19, 2013 at 4:52PM
"Gravity" continued its impressive run with an easy $9 million #1 gross, down just under 30% from last Friday with a likely total yield of another $30 million for the weekend. But this significant number -- which would be a solid first weekend total for any October -- masks an overall continued weakness in the market, with three new openers ranging from disappointing to disastrous. The top 10 totaled only $29 million, markedly down from $42 million the same Friday last year.
Pre-weekend indications were that Sony/Screen Gems' remake of "Carrie" would nab enough teen support to win its opening day. But with only $6.6 million (including some Thursday night revenue), even with its desirable pre-Halloween horror film slot, this is a real disappointment. Last year, "Paranormal IV" took in over $15 million its first day, so that difference in gross by itself accounts for most of the gap between 2012 and 2013.
But "Carrie" looks like a hit compared to the other two new wide release openers. "Escape Plan" (Lionsgate) came in #4 for the day, with $3,360,000, which is slightly better than early-year releases "Bullet in the Head" and "The Last Stand" from once-potent action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, respectively. But with a $70 million pre-marketing production cost, this is a big loser.
In a class by itself is Buena Vista's "The Fifth Estate," produced by Dreamworks and Participant. Aimed at awards with its launch as the opening night film at Toronto, this story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange grossed a pathetic $587,000 in 1,769 theaters, about as bad as it gets for the first week of a wide release. In this weak market, it still managed to be #7 for the day. Benedict Cumberbatch is not yet a marquee draw, despite juicy takeouts in the Time and the LA Times. And neither apparently is Assange. This smart-house movie needed good reviews and instead was slammed hard by critics.
Doing better and placing #3 for the day was Sony's "Captain Phillips," which held well (-39%) with $5,150,000 on its second Friday, good for #3. Its whole weekend should be down a bit less, which would keep this film on track for success both in gross and potential awards attention. Sony also had the #5 film with "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" at $2,550,000, which could with a boost from matinees rise to #4 before the weekend is done.
Benefiting from the weak overall lineup, "Prisoner," "Runner Runner," "Enough Said" and "Rush" made up the rest of the top 10, though none will get over $2 million for the whole weekend ("The Fifth Estate" also will fall short). Last year only two films among the 10 were at that level.
Three specialized films also opened, including two much-touted awards contenders. Fox Searchlight's "12 Years a Slave," equaling "Gravity" is critical praise and high-end anticipation, opened in 19 theaters in six cities for a gross of $275,000 in 19 theaters, for a per screen average of $14,474 for the day. This is quite strong for a tough-minded art-house oriented film, but it does fall short of what in a similar pattern "Precious" achieved -- $588,000 in 18 theaters on its first day, with a PSA of $32,700. That said, these are very good numbers for "12 Years," which will slowly broaden in coming weeks and is likely to ride a wave of interest as the awards season heats up ahead. For more analysis on the total weekend figures, look for Sunday's Arthouse Audit.
Much less successful initially was "All Is Lost" (Roadside Attractions), which opened in six prime New York/Los Angeles theaters, grossing only around $24,900, a PSA of $4,150. That equates to fewer than 500 patrons per theater for the whole day despite strong marketing and stellar reviews for the solo Robert Redford-starring lost-at-sea drama. Sony Pictures Classics 1940s early-Beat scene murder drama "Kill Your Darlings" took in $15,200 in 4 New York/Los Angeles theaters, for a PSA of $3,800, also not impressive (this opened on Wednesday, with just under $16,000 taken in for the two days).