Force of 'Gravity' foils pirates at North American box office

Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:03am EDT
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By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The 3D outer space thriller "Gravity" kept a tight grip on U.S. and Canadian box offices over the weekend, eclipsing the debut of Somali pirate drama "Captain Phillips" in a battle between two Oscar hopefuls.

"Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space, held the top spot on movie charts for a second weekend, grabbing $44.3 million in domestic ticket sales from Friday through Sunday.

The continued pull of "Gravity" beat the $26 million opening for "Captain Phillips," a drama starring Tom Hanks in a story based on the real-life hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship. Animated "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" took the No. 3 slot, collecting $14.3 million, according to studio estimates.

Both "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" earned glowing reviews and mentions as likely Oscar contenders. "Gravity" wowed critics with its 3D depictions of space and weightlessness, while Hanks won praise for his portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips, the man taken hostage when Somali pirates seized his ship in 2009.

Ninety-seven percent of critics recommended "Gravity" in reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website, slightly more than the 95 percent for "Captain Phillips."

In "Gravity," Bullock plays a novice astronaut and engineer alongside Clooney as the mission commander. After flying debris damages their shuttle, the pair are sent hurtling into space with depleting oxygen and remote chances of returning to Earth.

The movie took in record sales for an October weekend when it debuted a week ago. Filmgoers kept coming during the week, with many opting to pay for higher-priced 3D tickets. The film scored the best second weekend ever for an IMAX film with a take of $9 million, and North American sales for "Gravity" through Sunday reached an estimated $123.4 million, according to Warner Bros.

"It's word-of-mouth," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, explaining the film's remarkable performance, which included a drop of only 21 percent in receipts from the opening weekend which he said was a record for a wide-release film.   Continued...

From L to R: President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures, Greg Silverman, screenwriter Jonas Cuaron, actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, director Alfonso Cuaron, producer David Heyman and Warner Bros. President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Sue Kroll arrive for the New York premiere of 'GRAVITY' October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly