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By Hammad Zaidi | November 19, 2013

Welcome to Going Bionic, #186. Over the past few years, I’ve repeatedly stated how independent sci-fi films have replaced horror films as the hottest genre in the international film sales world. While this is at least in part because there were simply too many horror films made, so they saturated their own market and in turn reduced their collective sales value, it also signifies a shift in what moviegoers want to see.

Then Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity came out on October 4th and propelled the Sci-fi genre to a whole new level. As of November 17, seven weeks into the picture’s release, Gravity has made $514,856,000 million dollars worldwide, ($240,556,000 domestically and $274,300,000 internationally). Its performance has made it one of the highest grossing sci-fi films of all time, and the highest grossing live-action October release in history, by earning over $400 million in October. Today we’re going to examine some key factors that have made Gravity a trend-setting formula for the foreseeable future.

A “Modest” $100 Million Dollar Studio Budget
With film budgets swirling out of control in recent years, a $100 million dollar budget for a major film release with two “A Listers” like Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is a bargain.

For example, John Carter (2012) cost $250 million to make, but earned only $73,078,100 domestically and $211,061,000 internationally, totaling $284,139,100. While these numbers may seem pretty good at first glance, the film needed to hit the $600 million dollar box office mark, just to break even. Disney admits to losing $160 million on John Carter, which means they probably lost quite a bit more than that amount. In contrast, Gravity has performed mightily, by costing $100 million to make and earning north of half a billion dollars already.

Short Running Time
At only 91 minutes, Gravity is considerably shorter than other big-budgeted sci-fi films. John Carter was 132 minutes long. Avatar (2009) was marathon-like at 160 minutes long and all six editions of Star Wars (1977-2005) were north of 120 minutes, with many of them crossing 130 minutes in length. The advantage for Gravity is its short length gives it far more collective screening times than most other films in its genre (as displayed above). This fact becomes important for Gravity, because it is enjoying repeat business from moviegoers who are happy to pay to see it more than once.

3D Ticket Sales
Gravity just may save the 3-D theatrical release business, in the midst of 3-D sales falling off considerably. For example, Gravity earned $55,785,112 in 3,575 theaters on its opening weekend, which is a $15,604 per screen average. More importantly, 21% of the opening weekend’s take was earned from IMAX, and 80% were 3-D sales (the reason these two, 21% and 81% figures total more than 100% is because some ticket sales were both IMAX and 3-D, so the same ticket counted in both percentage totals). In fact, healthy 3-D sales are a large contributor to Gravity’s box office success, because it has been hailed as a movie that’s actually worth the money to see in 3-D.

A Strong International Run
Earning more than $260 million internationally has made Gravity quite the valuable commodity for Warner Brothers. International earnings are led by South Korea, with a $24,508,006, since its release on November 10. In France, the picture has earned $22,994,715 since its release on October 23, and Russia-CIS, has brought Gravity $20,428,351 since its November 3 release. Other notable countries where Gravity has lifted off are Australia, bringing $17,086,878 since November 10, Mexico, at $16,530,043 since October 18, and Germany with $16,264,832 since October 3. Even Spain has brought the sci-fi thriller $10,264,647 since October 4, The U.K. has brought $9,992,008 since November 10, and Italy has raked in $8,424,736 since October 3. Of course, many other countries have also brought Gravity millions more dollars. In addition, about 70% of Gravity’s earnings internationally over their perspective opening weekends were 3-D sales, with that figure hitting 95% in Italy and 97% in Germany. Thus, the film’s success isn’t just concentrated in a few key territories; it’s enjoying its box office success globally.

What It All Means for Filmmakers
With Gravity’s global success amongst filmgoers outside of the 14-25 year old male audience, studios will be forced to see sci-fi films as a mainstream genre that can appeal to wide audiences in multiple countries and cultures. Of course, with Gravity’s $100 budget, studios will also be forced to believe they can achieve such box office heights, without spending $250 million plus dollars to get such a result.

In the end, I believe, and have always believed, that it is all about the story. If you have a good one in place, only good things can happen.

Okay friends, I hope you’d enjoyed this, 186th edition. As always, I thank you for your lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I hope you have a productive week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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