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‘Gravity’ is box-office heavyweight again

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By Amy Kaufman

Los Angeles Times

(MCT)

LOS ANGELES — No rival came within the orbit of “Gravity” at the box office this weekend.

The 3-D space drama was No. 1 for a second weekend, collecting an impressive $44.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That means its ticket sales dropped only 21 percent from its debut — the best second-weekend hold for any movie in wide release this year.

On its opening weekend, about 80 percent of the film’s business came from 3-D sales; this weekend, that figure actually increased to 82 percent. After about 10 days in theaters, the film starring Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut has raked in $123.4 million in the U.S. and Canada and appears on its way to grossing at least $250 million domestically.

Abroad, the film is playing in 38 foreign countries and has so far made $68 million — most of which came from Russia, Germany and Australia.

With Alfonso Cuaron’s hit still selling tickets at near light speed, newcomer “Captain Phillips” had to settle for the runner-up position. The Paul Greengrass-directed thriller starring Tom Hanks got off to a slightly better-than-expected start, debuting with a healthy $26 million.

Meanwhile, Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills,” the only other film that hit theaters nationwide this weekend, flopped with an embarrassing $3.8 million.

Heading into the weekend, prerelease audience surveys indicated “Captain Phillips” would open with about $20 million. But even with “Gravity” still pulling adults to the multiplex, “Phillips” was able to attract an older crowd of its own: Roughly 62 percent of those who saw the Hanks movie this weekend were over 35. Critics have been enamored with the movie, and filmgoers loved it too, assigning the picture an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Produced by Sony Pictures for $55 million, “Captain Phillips” is based on the 2009 saga of a merchant mariner who was kidnapped by Somali pirates while steering a cargo ship around the Horn of Africa.

While the film performed best in New York and Los Angeles, Sony said business was also strong in Minneapolis, where there is a high concentration of Somali immigrants.

Last weekend, Sony held advance screenings of the movie in 800 theaters — a move intended to build positive word-of-mouth before the film’s launch across the country.

“I think that really helped us — having people talking about the film in a positive way before its traditional opening,” said Rory Bruer, the studio’s distribution president. “This movie is going to be around for a very long time.”

The film marks the best live-action debut for Hanks since 2009’s big-budget “Angels & Demons,” which launched with $46.2 million. In recent years, the 57-year-old actor has struggled somewhat to find his footing at the box office. His 2011 romantic comedy “Larry Crowne,” which he directed, co-wrote and starred in, tanked with just $35.6 million in domestic ticket sales. The expensive adaptation of “Cloud Atlas,” in which he starred last year with Halle Berry, was a disappointment as well, though it fared OK overseas.

The latest entry in Rodriguez’s “Machete” film series came in below the lowest industry projections, performing far worse than the original, 2010 “Machete,” which opened with $11.4 million. The few who showed up to see the sequel this past weekend — 67 percent of whom were male — gave the poorly reviewed film an average grade of B-minus.

The movie, acquired last year for $2 million by Open Road Entertainment, stars Danny Trejo as a spy who teams up with the U.S. president (Charlie Sheen, credited by his birth name, Carlos Estevez) to ward off a terrorist attack on the Capitol.

The film’s opening was the worst ever for director and co-writer Rodriguez, who hasn’t had a big box-office hit since 2005’s “Sin City.”

Though “Machete Kills” had a dismal debut, it wasn’t as bad as the debut of a new film version of “Romeo & Juliet.” Moviegoers had no love for the latest twist on Shakespeare’s classic, which collected $509,000 from 461 theaters over the weekend.

Starring Hailee Steinfeld of “True Grit” and newcomer Douglas Booth, “Romeo & Juliet” was adapted by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes. The film was distributed by Relativity Media, which received a fee to release the movie and didn’t pay to advertise it. The picture was the first to be made by Swarovski, the crystal jewelry company.

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©2013 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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‘Gravity’ is box-office heavyweight again