Box Office Preview: 'Gravity' Weekday Giant, Set to Beat 'Captain Phillips'

"Captain Phillips"
"Captain Phillips"
 

Paul Greengrass' Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips -- starring Tom Hanks -- enters the fray on Friday, but may not be able to topple Warner Bros.' behemoth Gravity from the top spot at the North American box office.

Opening to $55.8 million last weekend, director Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity continues to defy expectations and is doing record-breaking midweek business. Many expect the film to gross $28 million or more in its second weekend, compared to a projected $18 million to $20 million for Captain Phillips.

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That wouldn't be a shabby start for Captain Phillips, which cost roughly $55 million to make. Sony hopes to repeat the success of fellow adult drama Argo, which debuted in early October 2012 to $19.5 million. Captain Phillips, based on real events and hoping to be an awards player, should benefit from strong reviews.

According to online ticketing service Fandango, advance ticket sales for Captain Phillips are outpacing advance sales for Argo.

But Gravity remains the bigger ticket after accounting for 70 percent of weekday sales on Fandango.

Indeed, Gravity is playing like a summer film in fall. The movie took in $6 million on Monday, followed by $6.8 million on Tuesday and $5.3 million on Wednesday -- record numbers for October.

Gravity's North American total through Wednesday is $73.8 million after jumping the $100 million mark globally on Tuesday.

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"The word-of-mouth on this movie is staggering," said Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman. "These are extremely huge, record-breaking numbers for midweek. We did a survey last night showing that 6 percent of the audience has seen the movie more than once."

Gravity remains a huge draw in 3D, with 80 percent of the revenue coming from the more pricey format.

After Captain Phillips, the weekend's only other new wide player is exploitation action film Machete Kills, from writer-director Robert Rodriguez. Machete Kills is expected to open in the $8 million to $9 million range.

With a cast led by Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez, Machete Kills is the third film based on the fake trailers accompanying Grindhouse.

Relativity is launching third-party title Romeo & Juliet, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth as the star-crossed lovers, in a more limited run of 400-plus theaters. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay for the film, which is helmed by Carlo Carlei.

Relativity doesn't have any exposure on the film since it is a rent-a-system deal.

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