Box Office Gets a Boost From Older Audiences Seeing ‘Gravity’ in 3D

Sony's 'Captain Phillips' overperformed with a $26 million Statside opening

Fall is upon us at the movies, and so is the usual bottleneck of adult-skewing awards bait. But unlike in past years at this time, adults are showing support for an unusual suspect: 3D.

In just two weeks, Warner Bros.’ 3D event “Gravity,” which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, has amassed $191 million worldwide, of which $123.4 million comes from North America. Last weekend, “Gravity” saw 59% of its audience over 35 and scored a whopping 80% from 3D, which rose to 82% in the film’s second frame.

Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., attributed the “Gravity” hold to two primary reasons: First, audiences over 35 are discovering the film in 3D. And second, “Gravity” is broadening to younger audiences, hence the rise in the film’s 3D share.

Fellman said the success of Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D space odyssey has made it easier for other similarly targeted films, such as Sony’s “Captain Phillips,” to squeeze through a crowded marketplace for adults by “creating a need to go back to the movies,” he said.

“This is the perfect storm,” Fellman added. “Great movies are contagious, especially during a time of year when older audiences haven’t been to the movies in a while.”

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“Gravity” scored a record $55 million-plus opening last weekend, followed by another benchmark, dropping just 21% — the smallest drop (during a non-holiday weekend) for a film with its size of debut or higher.

Co-existing this weekend was “Captain Phillips,” which beat tracking with an estimated $26 million.

Both films have been riding the festival circuit, with stellar reviews (each with 95% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes). Now, audience word-of-mouth has taken hold: “Captain Phillips” successfully sneaked last weekend and received an overall ‘A’ CinemaScore rating, while “Gravity” has soared on buzz for its premium format presentations, with an ‘A-‘ appraisal.

This time last year, Warners began what would become a solid run for Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning “Argo,” which grossed $136 million domestically. The year before, pics such as “Moneyball,” “The Ides of March,” “Contagion,” “The Help” and “Drive” were all competing for adult auds at this time.

Similar to the “Gravity”/”Captain Phillips” showdown, “Argo” bowed the same weekend as “Taken 2” won its second straight domestic frame, though the Fox-distributed sequel, with $139 million Stateside, pales in comparison to what observers anticipate “Gravity” will make — potentially $250 million or more.

Also catching the “Gravity” gravy train was Warner’s and Alcon Entertainment’s “Prisoners,” which saw its smallest drop this weekend (its fourth frame), down just 36%, for a domestic cume of $53.6 million.

Likewise, Universal’s “Rush” held better this weekend (its third in wide release), though that film has underperformed, in general, grossing just $22 million domestic and counting.

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