In 1994, Sandra Bullock was breaking out in a big way. Thanks to bomb-on-the-bus thriller Speed, which made $350 million worldwide, the then-30-year-old actress was racing toward international movie star status.
Meanwhile, Tom Hanks was in the midst of a two-year Oscar blitz that included the No. 1 movie in America, Forrest Gump, which made $329 million on these shores alone and $667 million worldwide. He was 38 years old.
Nearly 20 years later, the two stars — now national treasures — are atop the box office once again, the latest triumphs of their incredibly lucrative and acclaimed careers.
Bullock's Gravity survived the uproar surrounding some nerdy science stuff and its leading lady's lack of adult diaper to take a victory orbit as the people's champion, earning $44.3 million in its second weekend. That is an outstanding hold from its opening weekend triumph, when it made $51 million.
The space thriller from Alfonso Cuarón is the buzziest movie in months, driving casual fans to the theater, where they are compelled by the film's heralded special effects to spring for the pricier 3D ticket — according to Deadline, 84% of audiences have seen it in 3D. Those that saw it in IMAX paid even more per ticket; in New York, admission to the giant screen showing is $20.50 per pass.
Much of the movie is a one-woman show for Bullock, who plays a scientist-turned-rookie astronaut who must survive a disaster in an atmosphere-less forever where no one can hear her scream. She receives a mighty assist in star power from George Clooney, who shares lead billing on the poster, but anyone leaving the theater will be talking about Bullock.
At 49 years old, conventional wisdom -- and the development executives in charge of Hollywood's slapdash approach -- say that Bullock should be finished as a leading lady, at least when it comes to action-packed movies. So it feels especially transformative that she not only defied that idiotic common knowledge with Gravity, but also with this summer's buddy cop flick The Heat, which made $226 million worldwide. Bullock has had an incredible run of twenty years worth of hits, including her Oscar win for The Blind Side, and it seems like nothing can pull her back down to earth.
That was a terrible gravity joke, by the way.
As for Hanks, this year should mark a nice return to glory for America's Dad. His run of hits in the 90's, including Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, the Toy Story films, and Saving Private Ryan was incredible, and he continued the success in the early 2000's with films like Catch Me If You Can, The Road to Perdition, The Terminal and the Da Vinci Code series. But while Hanks has continued to win Emmys for producing TV movies and miniseries, he's had a rough go of it at the box office the last half-decade, with films like Larry Crowne, which he directed, flopping big time.
And so, it's happy sailing for Hanks on Captain Phillips, the Paul Greengrass-directed drama about the 2009 pirate attack on an American merchant freighter off the coast of Somalia. The story takes liberty with the facts — Hollywood has to create a clear narrative whereas real life is usually random and messy — but audiences haven't seemed to mind. It received an "A" on CinemaScore, and grabbed second place after Gravity with a $26 million haul, surpassing the prediction for a $20 million open.
Those are good numbers for Hanks' best live-action movie opening since 2009's Angels and Demons, which no one really liked. In terms of critical reaction, Rotten Tomatoes pegs Captain Phillips as his most-praised film since Catch Me If You Can, which came out 11 years ago.
In other moviegoing news, Bill Hader continues to charm audiences, as his Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 came in third place with $14.2 million. On the other hand, no one was charmed by Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, and Charlie Sheen acting like lunatics in Machete Kills, which was a total bomb with $3.8 million in its opening weekend. Not even stunt cameos by Lady Gaga could help director Robert Rodriguez fight off the worst opening of his career.
Here are the estimated top 10 box office figures for Friday to Sunday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
1. Gravity — $44 million
2. Captain Phillips* — $26 million
3. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 — $14.2 million
4. Machete Kills* — $3.8 million
5. Runner Runner — $3.725 million
6. Prisoners — $3.65 million
7. Insidious Chapter 2 — $2.65 million
8. Rush — $2.6 million
9. Don Jon — $2.4 million
10. Baggage Claim — $2.1 million