By Shawn Robbins
2013's fourth quarter is approaching full swing with the holiday box office season on our doorstep. Unfortunately, however, the beginning of the year's end didn't fare well: October is projected to finish with around $627 million from the domestic market--down nearly 7 percent from October 2012.
The big winner of the month was Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. After the Warner Bros. flick's stellar $55.8 million debut became the best-ever October opening, the word-of-mouth phenom showed excellent staying power as the first movie to claim the top spot over three straight weekends since WB's own The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gravity also held first place for 21 consecutive days, the longest streak since the studio's The Dark Knight Rises accomplished the same feat in Summer 2012.
Overall, Gravity has earned $201.2 million through October 28--making it the first October release to ever cross the $200 million benchmark. Based on its current trajectory, the film has a great shot at eclipsing $250 million before the end of its run.
Captain Phillips was the other big story of the month with its $70.8 million tally through Monday. The Tom Hanks-led thriller is also posting healthy legs since its $25.7 million bow just under three weeks ago. Hanks had been lacking a major box office hit over the last few years, but Phillips proves he still boasts drawing power.
Rounding out the month's top three was a holdover from September in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The animated sequel brought in $65.7 million in October, bringing its domestic total to $101.1 million through Monday. That flick has performed generally in line with its 2009 predecessor, but noticeably behind last year's Hotel Transylvania. Still, Sony claims the second- and third-highest grossers of the month--a welcome showing for the studio after their rough summer.
Beyond the top three, October 2013 was mostly grim. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa's solid $34.9 million debut this past weekend aside, only Carrie and September's Prisoners will have accumulated at least $20 million each for the month. That makes for a total of just 6 films to cross that mark (October 2012 had 10). The result is the second-lowest October market gross since 2008, the fewest tickets sold in October since 2007, and the overall second least-attended October since 1996. Poorly reviewed flops such as Runner Runner, Escape Plan, The Counselor, Machete Kills, and The Fifth Estate contributed to the disappointing month.
The year's total market gross is projected to stand at $8.8 billion through October 31. That's still enough to keep ahead of last year's pace, but only by 0.4 percent (roughly $32 million). Running neck-and-neck with 2012 and 2010's $8.786 billion through October, the race for a record annual gross by the end of December has tightened up again.
Adjusting for inflation, 2013 now trails last year's admissions by an estimated 2 percent.
Looking ahead: With a rough October almost behind us, November should bring some good news for the industry. Headlining the month are November 22's hugely anticipated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and November 8's Thor: The Dark World, both of which are expected to inject blockbuster life into the marketplace.
Unfortunately, the in-between weekends are lacking high profile releases--especially with Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leo DiCaprio, having recently been bumped from its original November 15 date to Christmas Day. Excluding Disney's Frozen, the Thanksgiving weekend slate also looks tepid. Thor and Catching Fire will have to perform on par with, or beyond, expectations if the coming month hopes to live up to November 2012's record numbers driven by Skyfall, the Twilight finale, and Wreck-It Ralph. Stay tuned to BoxOffice in the days and weeks ahead for further analysis on the holiday season's biggest titles.
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