It’s the biggest Thursday preview gross since “Straight Outta Compton” pulled in $4.9 million in mid-August.
The Ridley Scott 3D action-adventure, starring Damon as an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet, is launching amid strong reviews following last month’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
“The Martian” is expected to pull in around $45 million at 3,826 locations over the weekend, with the studio pegging an opening in the low $40 million range. The film cost $109 million to produce and boasts a supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Pre-sales for “The Martian,” based on Andy Weir’s novel, have been topping “Gravity,” which launched on the same weekend in 2013. Sandra Bullock’s “Gravity” set an October opening record of $55.8 million.
It’s uncertain if Hurricane Joaquin will impact box office on the East Coast this weekend.
“The Martian,” which marks a return to the science-fiction world for Scott, who also directed “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Prometheus,” has earned a 93% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Last weekend’s winner, “Hotel Transylvania 2,” should do solid business for Sony. It’s expected to pull in roughly $28 million in the wake of its record-breaking September opening of $48.5 million.
Lionsgate’s “Sicario” will expand to a wide audience and is expected to finish the weekend in the $8 million to $10 million range at 2,620 sites. “Sicario” has grossed $2.9 million in limited release since its Sept. 18 opening.
Sony’s “The Walk,” from director Robert Zemeckis, opened Wednesday with $240,000 in 448 Imax and premium large format theaters in a bid to build moviegoer interest prior to the Oct. 9 wide release. Forecasts have pegged “The Walk” for a $3 million take in its first five days in U.S. theaters.
The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as French artist Philippe Petit, who walked on a high wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.