Based on the strength of early Friday returns, Alfonso Cuaron's 3D space epic Gravity could take in $45 million to $50 million in its North American debut, one of the best showings for an October release.
Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity is doing huge business in 3D theaters, both in conventional cinemas and IMAX locations. It's a needed boost for the format, which has seen big declines this year.
Overseas, Gravity debuted to $3.8 million on Thursday in select markets, and is likewise enjoying big business on 3D screens.
Gravity revolves around two astronauts left floating in space when their space shuttle is damaged (Bullock has a far bigger role). Producers include David Heyman, who played a key role in the Harry Potter franchise.
The only other new wide player this weekend is New Regency and 20th Century Fox's gambling thriller Runner Runner, starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. Runner Runner is tracking to open in the $10 million to $12 million range after taking in only $200,000 Thursday night. The saving grace is the film's reported $30 million budget.
Adding intrigue to the weekend, Sony has decided to sneak Paul Greengrass' Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, into 800 theaters on Saturday night a week ahead of its opening. Both Captain Phillips and Gravity are considered awards contenders.
Runner Runner was directed by Brad Furman and also stars Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie. New Regency, which fully financed the film, partnered with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way on the project.
The film, from a script by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders), revolves around a Princeton University student (Timberlake) who is lured into an Internet poker scam by the owner of a popular gambling website (Affleck).