Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Earthlings gather to see The Martian

Published:Tuesday | October 6, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Matt Damon is an astronaut stranded on Mars in ‘The Martian’.
Matt Damon is an astronaut stranded on Mars in ‘The Martian’.
Jenny Gabrielle (left), Dylan O’Brien (centre), and Rosa Salazar in ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’.
A group of adventurers face one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man in ‘Everest’.
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NEW YORK (AP):

Opening just days after NASA announced findings showing water on Mars, The Martian soaked up movie-goers at the box office.

Ridley Scott's 3-D space epic touched down in cinemas with a robust US$55 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday. The results again proved movie-goers' abiding thirst for space adventures, particularly ones that rely more on mathematics than monsters.

The 20th Century Fox release, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut left for dead on Mars, exceeded expectations to nearly rank as the top October debut ever. The estimated North American opening of The Martian surpassed that of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (US$47.5 million) and virtually equalled the debut of Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity (US$55.8 million).

It is Scott's second-best opening behind 2001's Hannibal and Damon's second-best after 2007's Bourne Ultimatum.

backdrop of science

Made for US$108 million, The Martian received a publicity boost earlier in the week when NASA announced that it had found evidence of water on the surface of Mars - a cosmically fortuitous tie-in for a movie that celebrates NASA ingenuity. Adapted from the Andy Weir novel, The Martian (more 'science-fact' than science fiction) relishes pragmatic scientific problem solving and NASA's spirit of exploration.

"What separates this movie - it has the backdrop of science, but all of the science is presented in a way that's very approachable for all," said Chris Aronson, head of Distribution for Fox.

Aronson noted that the shift in release date from November 25 to early October gave the film a more open path at the box office, where it could play well through the month. The film added US$45.2 million

internationally.

"Solid performances by recent space-related films like Interstellar and Gravity show that 'geeking-out' on all things outer space and science related in the cinema is not only a popular pastime, but has now made science actually 'cool'," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office firm Rentrak.

Yet October is proving especially busy with well-reviewed studio releases seeking broad audiences. Another acclaimed 3-D spectacle, Sony's The Walk, took a back seat to The Martian. Ahead of a wider opening next week, Robert Zemeckis' dramatisation of Philippe Petit's World Trade Centre stunt took in just US$1.6 million on 448 Imax screens.

"You need word of mouth for this type of film, and that's what this weekend was all about," said Sony's Distribution head Rory Bruer, who conceded it's a "crowded field". The film will look to parlay strong reviews out of its New York Film Festival debut and buzz from its vertigo-inducing 3-D next week.

Last week's box office champ Hotel Transylvania 2 slid to second with an estimated US$33 million. Sony's animated sequel has made US$90.5 million in two weeks.

Denis Villeneuve's drug war thriller Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, shot up to third with US$12.1 million for the acclaimed Lionsgate release.

The gay rights drama Freeheld, starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, opened in limited release with a US$40,000 per-screen average in New York and Los Angeles.

Following are the estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Rentrak.

1.The Martian (US$55m)

2. Hotel Transylvania 2 (US$33m)

3. Sicario (US$12.1m)

4. The Intern (US$11.6m)

5. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (U$7.7m)

6. Black Mass (US$5.9m)

7. Everest (US$5.5m)

8. The Visit (US$3.9m)

9. War Room (US$2.8m)

10. The Perfect Guy (US$2.4m)

Following are the estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international cinemas (excluding the US and Canada), according to Rentrak:

1. The Martian (US$45.2m)

2. Lost in Hong Kong (US$41m)

3. Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe (US$34m)

4. Goodbye Mr Loser (US$26m)

5. Hotel Transylvania 2 (US$20.4m)

6. Everest (US$16.4m)

7. The Intern (US$15.7m)

8. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (US$13.7m)

9. Inside Out (US$12.6m)

10. Saving Mr Wu (US$7m)'