'The Martian' fights 'Gravity' for October box office record; actual winner, however, is an Earthbound comedy
Released by 20th Century Fox, Ridley Scott's extremely well-received The Martian, starring Matt Damon in the title role as a U.S. astronaut fighting for his life after being left behind all alone on Mars, opened with an estimated $18 million on Friday, Sept. 30, '15, at 3,831 North American theaters, about two thirds of which in 3D. Bear in mind that the Friday estimate includes $2.5 million from Thursday evening and midnight screenings.
Directed by eventual Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, Warner Bros.' Gravity, another extremely well-received space movie about a pioneering American fearlessly kicking death's ass while stranded in a – literally – alien realm, collected $17.48 million over the same weekend back in 2013. Sandra Bullock starred as the lost-in-space astronaut and middle-American Mom struggling to find her way back to Earth, with George Clooney as a country-music-loving space cowboy who bravely sets out to meet his maker.
Gravity cost a reported $100 million. The Martian's budget is a reported $108 million. Neither figure includes marketing and distribution expenses.
Gravity officially holds the record for best opening weekend in October at the North American box office. As found at Boxofficemojo.com, Cuarón's mix of adventure and soap opera collected $55.78 million, going on to earn a domestic total of $274.09 million, in addition to $449.1 million overseas, for a grand worldwide total of $723.1 million.
Hurricane Joaquin is currently causing catastrophic floods in North and South Carolina, but the U.S. and Canada's main urban centers – where most of the box office dough is collected – should remain either dry or wet but in business. For now, The Martian is expected to gross $55 million by Sunday evening, thus placing it only slightly behind Gravity.
Could a Saturday surge make The Martian beat Gravity? Sure. If so, The Martian will officially become the biggest October debut ever at the North American box office. Just remember that “officially” doesn't mean “actually.”
See also: “Did Gravity really break October box office record?”
The actual October box office record holder
When inflation is taken into account – as it always should so we can have a better idea about actual ticket sales – by Sunday evening the biggest opening weekend in October at the North American box office will belong neither to The Martian nor to Gravity.
Try instead Scary Movie 3.
Directed by David Zucker, the 3D-deficient spoof/comedy collected $48.11 million at 3,505 locations in late October 2003. That represents approximately $67 million today. In other words, what you have is the likes of Pamela Anderson and Charlie Sheen kicking Matt Damon's and Sandra Bullock's box office butts.
Also in the Scary Movie 3 cast:
At no. 2 in October is DreamWorks Animation's A Shark Tale, with $47.6 million – or approx. $64 million adjusted for inflation. The animated flick features the voices of Will Smith, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Falk, among others.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Paranormal Activity 3 would be movie no. 3, with $52.56 million, or about $56.5 million adjusted. Gravity is right behind it at no. 4.
'The Martian' movie cast
Besides Matt Damon, The Martian movie cast features the following:
Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty). Kristen Wiig. Kate Mara. Jeff Daniels. Sebastian Stan. Sean Bean. Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). Michael Peña. Aksel Hennie. Mackenzie Davis. Nick Mohammed. Enzo Cilenti. Donald Glover. Chen Su. Eddy Ko. Jonathan Arris. Gruffudd Glyn. Naomi Scott. Brian Caspe. Matt Devere.
For the record, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, a Paramount (domestic) release starring Matthew McConaughey and The Martian's Jessica Chastain – plus Matt Damon in a smaller role – debuted with $47.51 million in Nov. 2014.*
* Warner Bros. distributed Interstellar internationally.
Matt Damon in The Martian movie trailer and image: 20th Century Fox.