Gravity not only wrapped up a second straight No. 1 weekend at the box office, it also managed the smallest drop in attendance all year. With the same studio backing, the same great critical reception, and even better box office, it might just be following in the footsteps of Best Picture champ Argo.
Warner Bros. seems to be thinking that magic can strike twice for them. Like they did with Argo, the studio gave Gravity a film festival launching pad through Telluride and Toronto (Gravity took an additional stop in Venice, because who doesn't appreciate an Italian vacation?), and then let the general public see it in early October. Gravity has already outshone Argo when it comes to box office, opening with the biggest October debut ever. But perhaps this past weekend is an even better indication of its success. The film only dropped 21 percent in its second week of release, which means, according to Variety's Andrew Stewart, its hold is "the best-ever (during a non-holiday) for a film that opened to $55 million-plus domestically."
The last time a top-five film held on to that much of its audience in its second week? Well, that was last December's bomb-ish Jack Reacher. But the time before that? Argo, about one year ago, which dropped just 15 percent in its second week, off of a much smaller opening-weekend take of around $19 million.
Obviously, if we're throwing around Jack Reacher caveats, box-office-to-Oscar futures are an inexact science. There are plenty of other factors to take into account when it comes to the awards race, and Argo and Gravity are by no means the same movie. But success begets success, and box-office-retention like this indicates a movie that is sticking in the popular consciousness. Financial success is not a direct path to Oscar glory, Scott Feinberg wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, but it helps when it comes to movies like Gravity that are expected to be big draws from the beginning. "When big movies do live up to expectations, though — as Gravity appears to be doing — they can ride that momentum to a lot of nominations," he wrote. "And the best picture nominee that garners the most overall nominations — you guessed it — usually wins (although the recently implemented new voting system may undermine that maxim to some extent)." A film like 12 Years a Slave, which opens this weekend and has been on the receiving end of a ton of Oscar buzz, is not expected to make nearly the kind of money Gravity has.
We still have a long way to go until March, but Warner Bros. has a familiar glint in their eye for now.