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This weekend both Captain Phillips and Machete Kills hit screens, but they can’t compete with Gravity. The question is if there’s enough box office oxygen for either to survive. And though that could be read as a play on the astronauts in Gravity, this is October, and these are three “adult” films (two are films aimed at adults, the other is R-rated). Someone is going to feel the pinch.

First up, let’s get this out of the way: Machete Kills looks terrible, early reports say it is terrible, and the first film was a bit crappy. Danny Trejo (though we love him) is not a movie star in that he doesn’t bring a sizable audience, it just looks like more of the same, and the curiosity factor in seeing Mel Gibson play villain would be higher if people cared. They don’t. Oh well, if the film opens to more than ten million it’s probably in okay box office shape. This was likely done on a budget with the knowledge that the first film grossed $26 Million domestically. This is likely to do less.

As for Captain Phillips, as I intimated in my Oscar Scuttbutt column, it could suffer badly if it doesn’t perform. Oscars tend to stay away from losers, in the sense that a film like The Help got a lot of nominations and it made a lot of money, where the same year’s The Ides of March – which was a George Clooney film starring Ryan Gosling — only made $40 Million and got one nomination. You could get into the “rose by any other name” style argument, and that audience responded to one and not the other, but if Ides had made $100 Million dollars, I’d bet it would have had more nominations. That’s because the box office created a perception the film didn’t work (then again, so did the film). Which is to say, a Tom Hanks box office misfire is going to have a harder time convincing the academy it’s awards-worthy.

As for Gravity, conservative estimates have it doing over $30 Million this weekend, which is a great hold. The question is if it holds better than expected. And it could. Daily numbers have been excellent, and when you’re talking about attracting an audience that isn’t as predictable as the 18-34 demographic, and you’re talking about a film that could attract multiple repeat theatrical viewings, well, it’s possible that Gravity could do $40 Million this weekend.

But let’s talk numbers:

  1. Gravity – $35 Million
  2. Captain Phillips - $16.7 Million
  3. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $14.9 Million
  4. Machete Kills - $8.5 Million
  5. Prisoners – $3.1 Million

Machete could do a bit better (and probably not too much worse) and so could Captain Phillips, but this is October and though tracking might suggest slightly higher openings, I think Gravity is going to be the main draw and I could be conservative on its hold. Or perhaps I’m overestimating its pull, and Captain Phillips manages to get over $20 Million for the weekend. We shall see.

What are you going to watch this weekend?