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.DL) 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:
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)
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.