'Gravity' to crater newcomer 'Captain Phillips' at box office

With "Gravity" still floating atop the box office, "Captain Phillips" may find itself adrift this weekend.

The 3-D space drama starring Sandra Bullock got off to a great start last weekend and has even attracted moviegoers to the multiplex mid-week, grossing $5.3 million on Wednesday alone. This weekend the movie could collect as much as $40 million, according to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys. With $73 million already under its belt, the film will certainly pass the $100-million milestone in the U.S. and Canada by Sunday.

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As for "Captain Phillips," the Tom Hanks action drama is poised to debut with a solid $20 million. Like "Gravity," the Paul Greengrass-directed film is aimed at adult audiences, which may hurt its ticket sales.

The only other new film opening in wide release this weekend, the Robert Rodriguez action sequel "Machete Kills," will likely start off with an underwhelming $8 million.

Last Saturday, Sony Pictures held sneak previews of "Captain Phillips" in 800 theaters. The studio did not disclose the ticket sales from the advance screenings but said they were "75% full" and attracted an older crowd, with 71% of the audience over the age of 35.

The film, produced by Sony for $55 million, is based on the true story of a U.S. cargo ship captain who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009. Since premiering at the New York Film Festival last month, it has received overwhemingly positive reviews.

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Hanks, 57, has not appeared in a live-action box-office hit since 2009's "Angels and Demons." The romantic comedy "Larry Crowne," which the actor directed, co-wrote and starred in, failed to connect with moviegoers in 2011, as did last year's pricey sci-fi adaptation of "Cloud Atlas." However, critics are describing "Captain Phillips" are a return to form for the two-time Oscar winner, as his performance is already generating award buzz.

"Machete Kills," meanwhile, has not been met with a warm response from reviewers. Directed and co-written by Robert Rodriguez, the film follows a spy named Machete (Danny Trejo) who is sought after by the U.S. president (Charlie Sheen, credited as Carlos Estevez) to stop a planned missile attack on Washington.

Trejo first played the titular character in 2010's "Machete," which collected a modest $44.1 million worldwide for 20th Century Fox. The latest installment in the series was acquired last year for $2 million by Open Road Films from production company Aldamisa Entertainment.

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In limited release, Relativity Media is opening the latest adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet" in 461 theaters. Written by "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes, the movie stars Hailee Steinfeld, the young "True Grit" star who was nominated for an Oscar in 2011.  

While the movie will likely flop with around $1.5 million in sales this weekend, Relativity doesn't have much at stake: Ryan Kavanaugh's independent studio is receiving a fee to distribute the picture and is not paying to market it. 

The romantic tragedy was produced and co-financed by Swarovski, the Austrian crystal jewelry company, for whom "Romeo & Juliet" marks a first foray into the film world. In an attempt to woo potential distributors at the Cannes Film Festival last year, Swarovski held a splashy party at which it gave out bracelets. The company's crystals are often seen in the movie, and it is also selling a line of jewelry in conjunction with film's release.


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