'The Martian': How it scored a big box office debut

'The Martian' stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes stranded on Mars. The critical and box office success of 'Martian' echoes that of recent sci-fi movies 'Interstellar' and 'Gravity.'

Aidan Monaghan/20th Century Fox/AP
'The Martian' stars Matt Damon.

The film “The Martian” opened to big numbers this past weekend at the domestic box office, becoming the newest science-fiction film to score at the fall box office.

“Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott, is adapted from the novel of the same name by Andy Weir and centers on Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut who is left for dead by his crewmates as they depart Mars. Mark tries to survive as officials on Earth try to bring him home. 

The movie’s ensemble cast includes Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover.

“Martian” received positive reviews from critics and grossed $55 million at the domestic box office. That’s just below fellow sci-fi success “Gravity,” which holds the record for the best October opening of all time with $55.8 million. "The Martian" received good notices when it premiered at festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and its positive buzz continued when it hit theaters.

Director Alfonso Cuarón's “Gravity,” which centers on an engineer (Sandra Bullock) stranded in space, opened in almost the same space as “Martian” in 2013, on Oct. 4. It topped the box office for multiple weeks, earning that record for the most money made in an opening weekend during October. It eventually became the sixth-highest-grossing movie of the year. Like “Martian,” it was a critical success – it earned great reviews from critics and was considered a front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar, though it eventually lost out to “12 Years a Slave.”

2014 sci-fi film “Interstellar,” directed by Christopher Nolan of the “Dark Knight” series, found critical and popular success in the autumn, as well. The movie grossed more than $47 million in its debut weekend. 

Time will tell if autumn is the right time for big-budget sci-fi, but it would not be a surprise to see at least one studio trying another brainy blockbuster next fall. 

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