'Gravity' Launches With October Box-Office Record
Defying recent trends that have pulled both high-budget blockbuster movies and 3-D offerings back to earth, Alfonso Cuarón’s nail-biting space adventure with just two actors — Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — had a flawless launch over the weekend and seems poised to remain in orbit for some time.
The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Fritz reports that “Gravity” not only set an October box-office record with opening weekend ticket sales of $55.6 million but also did 80% of that business in locations playing the movie in 3-D “in a year when audiences often have opted out of paying more to see images pop from the screen.”
“Eighty percent is mind boggling, given that the domestic market has settled in with a much lower ratio on big movies in recent times,” Dan Fellman, the president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., which released "Gravity," tells Fritz.
Exit poll data is strong, according to Fellman, which suggests that word-of-mouth will drive sales in weeks to come. “We're already seeing repeat business,” he tells Fritz.
The movie has also been “Floating on Advance Praise And Awe” as a USA Today headline proffering 10 reasons to watch the flick put it Friday. The No. 2 reason, according to Andrea Mandell, is critics’ (and peers’) plaudits: James Cameron has called it “the best space film ever done” after seeing it in Venice. Dave Karger, chief correspondent for the movie ticket site Fandango.com, says ‘I cannot think of another movie this year that has carried such overwhelmingly positive buzz….’ And USA Today critic Claudia Puig gives the film four stars out of four.”
It’s registering a stratospheric 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The overall marketing strategy was to “harness the visceral, intense, terrifying, beautiful, breathless experience of the film,” Warner Bros. tells Deadine editor-in-chief Nikki Finke. “We leveraged the breakthrough visuals, the director’s pedigree, and the standout performances.”
Finke reports that the campaign launched theatrically in May with a 3D teaser trailer on Warner Bros.’ “The Great Gatsby.”
“In lieu of one main trailer, the studio’s president of worldwide marketing, Sue Kroll, decided on three different ‘movie moment’ pieces playing with ‘Wolverine,’” Finke continues. “A final trailer further developed Bullock’s character with the ‘Don’t let go’ tagline and launched in September. An experiential website was built featuring a spacewalk of the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station.”
When the full-length trailer (2:21) was released last month, Entertainment Weekly’s Katie Atkinson wrote: “From the first second of the just-released ‘Gravity’ trailer, viewers are put right inside Sandra Bullock’s space suit — and it’s beyond terrifying. The actress relays a mixture of helplessness, fear, and confusion as her astronaut, Dr. Ryan Stone, goes hurtling through space with nothing in sight but stars and a distant Earth.”
Indeed, in the midst of scene-after-scene of life-threatening drama, the earth itself is a deceptively placid and stunningly beautiful third co-star of the movie.
“This is what makes the film an instant classic,” writes Daniel Grzywacz in The Daily Trojan. “Amid the chaos, amid the struggle, amid the rabid fight for life, you see such serene splendor that it is hard not to be swept up in it.”
A five-minute “extended trailer” was also released in September. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson managed to work up a little admitted “nerd rage” over some of the things Clooney and Bullock seemed to be doing on screen that looked “cool but not right.” So he sat down with Zeb Scoville, the EVA [extravehicular activity] task group lead at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab — in other words, a guy who knows the right stuff about space walking — to ascertain what parts of the movie are realistic and which are not from a technical standpoint.
Suffice it to say that among the liberties Cuarón and his techies take, Clooney’s jetpack is not part of NASA’s active inventory, bursting the fantasies of anyone of a certain age who has been dreaming about being hitched to one since the “Jetsons.”
But that hardly negates the overall verisimilitude of the movie’s feel, according to real-life astronauts who helped to work up the advance frenzy with reviewers such as Paul Shirey on JoBlo.com.
Doing an as-told-to review in the Hollywood Reporter, moon-walker Buzz Aldrin calls the visual effects “remarkable” and says he was “extravagantly impressed by the
portrayal of the reality of zero gravity” although he does allow that real-life astronauts would probably not be cracking jokes, as Clooney and Bullock do in the midst of travail, and maybe
there weren’t quite enough clouds obscuring those beautiful shots of the earth.
That said, it looks like nothing but blue skies ahead for a movie he and many other mere mortals walked away from "very, very impressed."