Gravity was widely expected to be a hit. It had two major movie stars, an easy to understand plot, and hugely positive buzz, including our own modest contribution. All of that added up to an absolute domination of the box office.
How much? Well, basically it’s the highest grossing movie both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock have starred in. As in ever.
At 3,575 locations, Gravity‘s estimated $55.6 million debut is a new opening weekend record for the month of October ahead of 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.6 million). It’s also the highest start ever for stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney ahead of The Heat and Batman and Robin, respectively.
Wait, George Clooney’s best opening, financially speaking, is still Batman and Robin? That turkey? Man, no wonder he still bags on it. That must hurt. By the way, Warner Bros. itself was expecting $35 to $40 million this weekend, so it’s a surprise to everybody that it’s grossing summer blockbuster money.
Anyway, this is interesting for two reasons. One, Gravity is, very much, an art movie, and those don’t often make nearly $60 million at the box office in a weekend. And two, it adds more fuel to the discussion of why the hell we can’t have a superheroine movie.
Seriously, it’s pretty hard to argue, as Hollywood tends to do, that nobody wants to see women in big action blockbusters when Gravity is pretty much just Sandra Bullock and a whole bunch of CGI. Carefully considered and artistic CGI from a director who carefully planned out every camera move and shot in excruciating detail, but it’s also still a movie where billions of dollars of stuff gets shredded, stuff blows up and burns, and asses get kicked. Well, one ass, repeatedly, which is the entire theme of the script, but you see the point.
It becomes especially pressing when Gravity is released by Warner Brothers, who owns the rights to Wonder Woman, a property they’ve been excessively timid about in recent years. It’s one thing to argue that somehow a superheroine movie isn’t something everybody will show up for when some Katherine Heigl turkey bombs. It’s quite another when you’re raking it in hand over fist from an action movie with a woman as pretty much the only cast member and might have a shot at cleaning up at the Oscars. In fact, Gravity’s high gross makes those Oscars more likely.
In other words, Gravity isn’t just making a lot of money… it’s starting to take apart some conventional wisdom.