There's certainly something refreshing about watching one of the best films of the year break box-office records. That's what happened this past weekend with "Gravity, " Alfonso Cuarón's astonishingly good space epic, which recorded the biggest October debut of all time with $55.6 million domestically.
Whenever a film like "Gravity" breaks through and hits with both critics and audiences, it's worth taking a step back to see what we can learn from it. There's never been a movie quite like "Gravity," so as studios poke and prod the box office success of Cuarón's masterpiece, these are the lessons they should be taking away.
Trust The Talent
The average moviegoer isn't going to be able to tell you who Alfonso Cuarón is or that he made arguable the best "Harry Potter" movie and one of the best movies — period — from the previous decade, "Children of Men." For studio execs, it's their job to know that sort of thing and use that information to make business decisions. While investing in Cuarón was by no means as simple as good business sense — he hasn't made a commercial hit outside of "Potter" — it was a move by Warner Bros. to trust that quality filmmaking can perform just like something with brand recognition, and in the case of "Gravity," be more memorable for it.
It Doesn't Take $250 Million
Part of the trade-off of funding a movie based on an original concept from an acclaimed director with largely untested box-office drawing power is that the budget doesn't balloon as high as it does for something like "The Lone Ranger." "Gravity" cost $100 million to make, and the money was spent in the right places. Cuarón cast two of today's biggest stars and essentially everything else went into state-of-the-art technology. And all the effects were essential to the story and innovative enough to make audiences feel like hadn't seen anything like it before.
It Doesn't Take Two And A Half Hours
Here is probably the easiest lesson for other studio films to learn from. A movie can seem even more impressive if it tells a compelling story within the span of 90 minutes. The non-stop tension of "Gravity" combined with its tight running time affected the overall experience of watching the film because the immediacy of the danger wouldn't have felt as real if you were checking your watch at the two-hour mark, trying to figure out when this thing would end. Making a film that is as big as "Gravity" in only 90 minutes shows that Cuarón wanted this story — which in essence is pretty simple — to be stripped down only to the essential elements.
People Will Come...
Marketing departments for film studios have been programmed to believe certain things about their intended targets. Often TV ads are edited in a way to make the film appear to be something it's not. A recent example even caused a lawsuit, when the moody "Drive" suddenly became a "Fast and Furious" clone in 30-second spots. The ads for "Gravity" presented the movie accurately and used its own imagery to let everyone know just how suspenseful the end product will be.
...And So Will The Oscars.
Reviews for "Gravity" were strong enough to give it a good shot next year at the Oscars, but the box-office success guarantees it. As Sandra Bullock discussed in our interview, she didn't do anything special, other than "do her job," when she won for "The Blind Side," and while she might not go out of her way to campaign, you can bet that Academy voters will remember these 90 minutes when it comes times for nominations.
Check out everything we've got on "Gravity."