October 6, 2013



OPENINGS:  We spent all summer hearing that it was impossible to sell audiences on big-budget non-franchise titles, as spectacles like White House Down, Pacific Rim, After Earth and The Lone Ranger went splat.  In one fantastic swoop, GRAVITY proved the lie to that with an October-record $55.6M weekend–and with two middle-aged stars.  (What a year Sandra Bullock is having!)  The film’s international campaign is off to a good start as well, with $27.7M in 29 territories.  Gravity is proving to be a 3D phenomenon, with 80% of US tickets, and 70% of international, sold in that format.  (Avatar, which was released when it wasn’t quite as easy to find 3D screens, started at 72% in the US.)  Warners has a pair of additional Oscar contenders this season with Prisoners and the upcoming Her, and it’ll be interesting to see how the studio allocates its marketing assets.

There’s not much to be said about RUNNER RUNNER, which folded with a terrible $7.6M weekend.  Foreign business is better ($23.4M so far, which includes openings before this weekend), but the movie is still going nowhere, and probably wouldn’t have even if it hadn’t been subsumed by Gravity.

HOLDOVERS:  CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (Sony) had a 37% drop to $21.5M, compared to the 17% drop to $25M of the first Cloudy, so although the two cartoons are neck-and-neck at the moment, sequel frontloading is kicking in, and Cloudy 2 will start to fall behind.  Cloudy 2 has just started its overseas release with $11.2M so far.

The rest of the recent openings were ugly, especially RUSH (Universal), which got no traction at all and plunged 56% to $4.4M, unlikely to get past $30M in the US.  (It’s already made $30M overseas, where Formula One is a more viable sport, although even that’s not a very impressive number.)  DON JON (Relativity) dropped 52% to $4.2M and BAGGAGE CLAIM (Fox Searchlight) by 54% to $4.1M. PRISONERS (Warners) was only a little better, down 48% to $5.7M, with $47.9M earned so far.

LIMITED RELEASE:  Lightning didn’t quite strike twice for PULLING STRINGS (Lionsgate/Televisa), which went after the Spanish-language audience that made the same studios’ Instructions Not Included a $41.3M (and counting) smash.  Strings opened with a $6500 average at 387 theatres (the studio is assuming the same spectacular Sunday hold that Instructions has had) for a $2.5M weekend, compared to the incredible $22.3K average and $7.8M total that Instructions had when it opened at 348.  Still, not a bad start for an under-the-radar release.  The per-theatre average was better than the $4900 for ENOUGH SAID (Fox Searchlight) had in its $2.2M expansion to 437 theatres.  Other openings were grim, as the Christian drama GRACE UNPLUGGED (Roadside) managed a $2K average at 511, PARKLAND (Exclusive) a $1300 average at 257, and A.C.O.D. (Film Arcade) a $6700 average at just 3 (boosted by in-theatre Q&A appearances).


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."