'Gravity' Rockets to No. 1 at Box Office, Sets Record Opening

Warner Bros. Pictures' Thriller "Gravity"
Warner Bros. Pictures' thriller "Gravity" topped the box office its opening weekend with $55.6 million. (Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

"Gravity," Warner Bros. Pictures' space thriller, launched to the top of the box office in its opening weekend, entering the orbit of record-setting films.

Director Alfonso Cuarón's critically-acclaimed movie about astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) stranded while on a spacewalk took in an estimated $55.6 million, a record for movies released in October, the entertainment-trade magazine Variety reported.

"People that haven't gone to the movies in years, or who see one or two movies a year, are going to see 'Gravity,'" Warner Bros.' domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "In two days, this movie has become a cultural phenomenon."

Contributing to its record opening, "Gravity" pulled in $11.2 million from large-format IMAX theaters and $27.4 million from international theaters, led by Russia, Germany, and Australia. Domestically, 80 percent of the proceeds came from 3D screenings (compared to 70 percent overseas). [See photos from the film "Gravity"]

"A lot of people who grew up going to see IMAX space documentaries like 'Space Station' and 'Hubble 3D' made the connection to see this film also in IMAX," stated Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Entertainment, in an interview with Variety.

The previous box office record for an October opening was set by 2011's "Paranormal Activity 3," which took in $52.6 million in its first weekend.

"Gravity" also set domestic opening records for the film's two stars, surpassing Bullock's "The Heat" ($39.1 million) and Clooney's "Batman & Robin" ($42.9 million). "Gravity" was Cuarón's second-best opening after "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," which producer David Heynman was also attached.

The $55.6 million opening eclipsed the industry estimates, which projected "Gravity" would top the weekend with $35 million.

Lending to the film's initial success was the near-universal praise from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, an online film review aggregator, certified "Gravity" 98 percent "fresh" based on 216 reviews. Ninety-one (91) percent of the site's readers also said that they liked the movie.

"As the credits roll, you may find yourself thinking about real space launches you've watched or watching man walk on the moon, and remembering that feeling of awe at how man ever developed the technology to explore space in the first place," wrote Jocelyn Noveck in her review for the Associated Press.

Astronauts also praised the film. Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin wrote for The Hollywood Reporter that he was "very, very impressed." Tom Jones, who like Bullock's and Clooney's characters conducted spacewalks from the space shuttle, advised for Popular Mechanics, "watch 'Gravity' and you'll know why astronauts eagerly sign up for the next launch."

Cady Coleman, who was on board the International Space Station in 2010 when she provided advice to Bullock about portraying an astronaut, told collectSPACE that the movie brings audiences to outer space.

"What [Gravity] does," Coleman said, "is it brings a bunch of people on Earth up to space, and they become the real astronauts."

Click through to collectSPACE.com to see “Gravity” star Sandra Bullock’s and director Alfonso Cuarón’s surprised reactions to receiving real flown-in-space artifacts.

Follow collectSPACE.com on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2013 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.