NEW YORK: The 3D outer space thriller Gravity kept a tight grip on US and Canadian box offices over the weekend, eclipsing the debut of Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips in a battle between two Oscar hopefuls.
Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space, held the top spot on movie charts for a second weekend, grabbing $44.3m in domestic ticket sales from Friday through yesterday.
The continued pull of Gravity beat the $26m opening for Captain Phillips, a drama starring Tom Hanks in a story based on the real-life hijacking of a US cargo ship. Animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 took the No. 3 slot, collecting $14.3m.
Both Gravity and Captain Phillips earned glowing reviews and mentions as likely Oscar contenders. Gravity wowed critics with its 3D depictions of space and weightlessness, while Hanks won praise for his portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips, the man taken hostage when Somali pirates seized his ship in 2009.
Ninety-seven percent of critics recommended Gravity in reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website, slightly more than the 95 percent for Captain Phillips.
In Gravity, Bullock plays a novice astronaut and engineer alongside Clooney as the mission commander. After flying debris damages their shuttle, the pair are sent hurtling into space with depleting oxygen and remote chances of returning to Earth.
The movie took in record sales for an October weekend when it debuted a week ago. Film goers kept coming during the week, with many opting to pay for higher-priced 3D tickets. The film scored the best second weekend ever for an IMAX film with a take of $9m, and North American sales for Gravity through yesterday reached an estimated $123.4m, according to Warner Bros.
Also, new action movie Machete Kills grossed $3.8m at US and Canadian theatres, finishing in fourth place. In fifth place, drama Runner Runner took in $3.7m. The Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama Rush fell to eighth place with only $2.4m, for a total of only $22.2m in its fourth week of release.