"It's all good news," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.
He credited director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron, who takes viewers into orbit with a story set almost entirely in space that explores challenges faced by two astronauts during a spacewalk. Cuaron's team developed equipment and technology to replicate the weightlessness of space.
"It's never been seen before, visual effects like this," Fellman said. "Just the space shots are mind-boggling. It looks like you're right there."
Last week's top movie, Sony's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," rolled into second place with $21.5 million. The animated sequel features the voices of Bill Hader and Anna Faris and a cast of "foodimals," like tacodiles and shrimpanzees.
R-rated fare rounds out the top six. Twentieth Century Fox's "Runner Runner," starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, opened in third place with $7.6 million.
Warner Bros.' "Prisoners," starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, locked onto the fourth spot. Universal's racing tale "Rush," starring Chris Hemsworth, drove into fifth place, followed by "Don Jon," Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut about a porn addict looking for love.
"The adult drama is back, and fall is the season for the adult drama," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "This is when you get your more challenging films, some of the more esoteric fare, and a lot of those movies, by their nature, have to be rated R."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Gravity," $55.55 million ($27.4 million international).
2. "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," $21.5 million ($8.1 international).
3. "Runner Runner," $7.6 million ($7.6 million international).
4. "Prisoners," $5.7 million ($5.7 million international).
5. "Rush," $4.8 million ($7.5 million international).
6. "Don Jon," $4.16 million ($350,000 international).
7. "Baggage Claim," $4.12 million.
8. "Insidious: Chapter 2," $3.87 million ($9.3 million international).
9. "Pulling Strings," $2.5 million.
10. "Enough Said," $2.15 million.