Box Office: 'The Martian' Blasting Towards $53M Debut After $18M Friday

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
'The Martian'

Elsewhere, Robert Zemeckis' 'The Walk' is off to a slow start in its exlcusive Imax run, while 'Sicario' scores in nationwide expansion.

Ridley Scott's 3D space epic The Martian has successfully blasted off at the North American box office, where it grossed a stellar $18 million Friday for a projected $53 million weekend.

The Martian, from 20th Century Fox, will easily best the $47.5 million debut of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar last November and, at least on Friday, edged out the opening day of Gravity ($17.5 million) thanks to glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore.

Launching on the same weekend in 2013, Gravity remains the record-holder for the top October debut of all time ($55.8 million), not accounting for inflation. Gravity saw a rare 31 percent jump from Friday to Saturday, and faced far less competition than The Martian, which is expected to jump 25 percent on Saturday.

Drew Goddard wrote the adapted script for The Martian based on Andy Weir's best-selling book. Damon stars opposite Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie.

Playing in 3,826 theaters domestically, the space adventure is getting the widest October release ever for a live-action film. Friday's gross includes $2.5 million earned Thursday night from 2,800 locations, the best showing since Straight Outta Compton's $4.9 million in mid-August. It also bested the $1.4 million earned in Thursday previews by Gravity.

Unlike Gravity, The Martian isn't playing in Imax theaters. That's because Imax was committed to an exclusive run of Robert Zemeckis' The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as French artist Philippe Petit, who gained fame after he walked on a high wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.

The Walk, playing in 448 Imax theaters plus a smattering of premium large-format theaters not carrying The Martian, is off to a soft start, according to early Friday returns. For the weekend, the 3D film is on course to earn roughly $1.3 million, compared to the $3 million pre-release tracking had suggested.

Sony/TriStar is using the exclusive Imax run to build word-of-mouth in advance of the film's nationwide opening on Oct. 9. Universal did the same two weeks ago with Everest, which grossed $7.2 million in its exclusive Imax and PLF engagement.

Denis Villeneuve's critically acclaimed Sicario is expanding nationwide this weekend to strong results. The film placed No. 3 Friday after The Martian and holdover Hotel Transylvania 2 with $4.3 million from 2,620 theaters for a projected $11.5 million weekend. From Lionsgate, the drug cartel drama stars Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin and earned an A- CinemaScore.

Sony's Hotel Transylvania sequel remains a winner in its second outing. The animated film is expected to fall just 44 percent to an estimated $33 million for a domestic total north of $90 million. Holdovers The Intern and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials are expected to round out the top five with weekend earnings of roughly $12 million and $7 million-plus, respectively.

Oct. 3, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.