"Gravity" Might Be Hollywood's First Great Rule Breaker

Source: Warner Bros.

If there's an ironclad rule in Hollywood, it's that sci-films can't win the Best Picture Oscar. Gravity may soon break that rule, and make a ton of money for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) and IMAX (NYSE: IMAX  ) investors in the process.

I've yet to see the movie, which puts me among the minority. Gravity closed its second weekend in U.S. theaters having produced $44.3 million in box-office sales. That's an astoundingly small 21% dip from its Oct. 4 open. The last film to hold up so well after earning at least $55 million in its debut? The Incredibles, which declined just 29% in its second weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

I'll grant those numbers don't sound impressive in the era of billion-dollar comic-book films. Consider the context before you judge: Gravity's $123 million domestic haul is already within spitting distance of October's all-time top grosser, Meet the Parents. The Ben Stiller-Robert DeNiro comedy lasted 25 weeks in theaters and earned $166.2 million at the U.S. gate, Box Office Mojo reports. Gravity appears on pace to shatter that record.

Having seen the trailer, I can understand why so many are enthralled:

Sources: YouTube, Warner Bros.

Trailers can be deceiving, of course, but in this case it looks like the film delivers on the preview. More than 97% of critics rating Gravity give it a thumbs-up, according to tracking site Rotten Tomatoes. Most describe it as the sort of immersive experience that wins Oscars.

Will it happen? History isn't on Gravity's side. Not once in the 85-year history of the Oscars has a sci-fi film won Best Picture. Only six films have ever been nominated, listed here in chronological order:

  • A Clockwork Orange (1972)

  • Star Wars (1977)

  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

  • District 9 (2009)

  • Avatar (2009)

  • Inception (2010)

Gravity's weighty blend of critical acclaim and box-office success makes it a likely candidate to join this elite list. And that, alone, should have Time Warner investors celebrating.

Unlike the Emmys, which don't always give a ratings boost to acclaimed TV shows, Oscar nominees tend to enjoy extended runs at the box office, and higher overall profits for the studios that make them. Last year's Best Picture winner, Argo, grossed more than five times its production budget. Nominee Life of Pi produced more than $600 million in box-office sales.

Now imagine if Gravity were to perform similarly for Warner Bros., which is already on track for its second-best annual performance since 2000.

All signs suggest that Gravity will give Time Warner stock a push. IMAX, too. Gravity delivered $15.1 million in opening-weekend sales for the widescreen operator -- a new October record. The Hollywood Reporter pegs this week's additional sales at $9 million, upping IMAX's total gains to $26.5 million. Moviegoers are paying up to see the film in 3-D and widescreen.

Are you among them? How strong do you believe Gravity's pull will be on Time Warner and IMAX stock? What about the Best Picture voters? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2013, at 9:58 PM, crippledgimp wrote:

    I'm glad that I'm the first person to comment on this article, and I'm going to try and explain it in just a factual experience, and not an opinionated.

    But firstly, I LOVED Gravity!

    Factually, it's not worth it to see it in a regular theater. You need to see it in IMAX. No if's and's or butt's. My girlfriend and I had dinner before hand and had a couple drinks, walked through the parking lot, and went right in. We found our seats in about a 30% packed theater, grabbed some seats in the dead center, but down a few rows.

    At first we were watching the previews and we thought we were just a little too far forward. But then the movie came on and I loved it! The idea is to put you in Sandra Bullocks spacesuit, by either filming it from her point of view, or shoving the camera in a small space and making it up close and personal.

    When things come into orbit on the screen, I found myself having to turn my head and look down the side of the space stations, just to wonder what it is. There's no sound in space, so nothing really has a noise. Imagine everything sounds like you're in ductwork.

    It's her trying to cope with this problem, and what to do. There's not some expansive story, it's just a 4 hour event (in real life), slammed into a 90 minute film. So it's nice that it's real time, it makes you feel like you're moving with her the whole way.

    George Clooney steals the show of course; the only 2 characters are him and Sandra. His appearance is limited, but he's got some great one liners, and he has just a great personality (himself in real life) for the character he is.

    Spend the extra money, it's well worth it. It's just not the same at home or on a small screen. I probably won't go see this again though, however, if it comes to IMAX like 10 years from now I will see it again.

    Final thought - It cost 32 dollars for the 2 of us, just a heads up.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2013, at 10:02 PM, twmedford23 wrote:

    I take issue with this statement: "The last film to hold up so well after earning at least $55 million in its debut? The Incredibles, which declined just 29% in its second weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter."

    Um, I'd like to bring up a little movie called Avatar. It dropped a miniscule 1.8% in its second weekend. Look it up.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2013, at 10:33 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @twmedford23,

    >>Um, I'd like to bring up a little movie called Avatar. It dropped a miniscule 1.8% in its second weekend. Look it up.

    Thanks for the correction. For those interested, the data referred to can be found here:

    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=avatar....

    Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2013, at 4:15 AM, Galactusz wrote:

    One little bit of problem with your article, Gravity is NOT a science fiction movie, it's not only set around the present time (space shuttle ring a bell?), but all the technology displayed is based on actual existing real working engineering and science.

    Science fiction on the other hand, is based on fantastical technology that does not exist as of yet.

    I'm sorry, but you have been served.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2013, at 4:40 AM, Galactusz wrote:

    Ok, look, I apologize for saying that you had been served...that was outta line.

    But I always take issue when people assume just because a movie takes place in space, that's it's automatically a sic-fi flick, nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Another flick people think of as a sci-fi film is Ron Howard's Apollo 13...that's another one that's NOT science fiction, it's a historical film utilizing existing technology based on actual events.

    The Right Stuff is another one.

    Gravity certainly falls into this category.

    Again, apologies for being a smartass, it was not my intention.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2013, at 5:40 AM, obkozranch wrote:

    I'm thrilled I bought IMAX after watching it rise to 30$. I bought at 26, and will only add. I feel the analysts are wrong on the outlook, and the growth ~all over the world ~ IMAX is enjoying. I will only add to my position.

    Gravity, I have not seen yet, but am planning a night out just like your first comment here. I will be one of next weeks box office tally.

    Gravity is a Sci-fi flick as it is science fiction as to what would happen if such a horrific situation occurred. Maybe it could be called a horror/ thriller feature too. However it gets classified, I can't wait. Maybe that's why it is holding up so well as the different genre movie goers are learning by word of mouth it's in their genre. Sci-Fi, horror/thriller, drama, seems like it's all here, and Sandra/Cloony fans too. I have to admit I'm a huge Sandra Bullock fan.

    I must remind some folks of the awesome June through Sept. 3D movie take this year, IMAX awesome entry into several countries and JV's with some theaters.

    Gravity just might be IMAX's anti-gravity boots. Patiently waiting for the analysts to rethink their estimates. Credit Suisse and most think 2014 will be a very good year for Imax.

    kenn

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2013, at 6:45 AM, AtomicAgePix wrote:

    Just for the record, IMAX is NOT a widescreen format. It is a large format, meaning it uses 70mm film turned on its side to produce higher resolution images than standard 35mm film. However its aspect ratio is 1.43:1, not exactly wide.

    All of this is irrelevant however because Gravity was not photographed in IMAX, but rather on the Arri Alexa, a 2K (just slightly more than HD resolution) digital camera. Seeing it on an IMAX screen (even the new fake IMAX screens) will probably be a little better than seeing it at your local muti-plex, even if its 2.40:1 ratio won't fill the top and bottom of the screen.

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2013, at 9:56 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @Galactusz,

    No apology necessary, but I do appreciate the follow-up nonetheless.

    I think Box Office Mojo classifies Gravity as a sci-fi thriller because the story isn't based on true events. We've also no evidence that the extreme scenario depicted within is plausible. It's an imagined tale set in the present.

    Of the other two you mention, BOM classifies Apollo 13 as an action thriller and The Right Stuff as a period drama.

    Thanks for writing and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

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