Gravity and Captain Phillips top the US box office

While The Fifth Estate performs worse than hoped.

Gravity, from Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón was the top release of the past month, grossing over US$426m worldwide (including US$218m in North America) since its 4 October release. The film stars box office heavyweights George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). While on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes and their shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone in space.

The 2nd biggest release of the month was Captain Phillips, from Green Zone director, Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks. The film is based on the true story of merchant mariner Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009.

Since its 11 October release the film has grossed US$125m worldwide - of which US$82m was in North America alone. Overseas receipts are expected to improve significantly going forward as the film is yet to be released in a number of locations and should reach over US$200m worldwide by closing.

The much awaited Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger prison film Escape Plan also opened this month and has performed relatively well at the international box office, grossing over US$50m worldwide since its 18 October release.

The film stars Schwarzenegger and Stallone as inmates who try to escape from a maximum security hi-tech prison. We expect the film to end off at around US$100m total worldwide gross, more than covering the film’s US$50m budget. This return is significantly healthier than the two last films from either of these two actors: Stallone’s Bullet to the Head grossed only US$22m off a budget of US$55m whilst Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand grossed U$37m off a budget of US$30m.

Other major October releases included Runner Runner, Machete Kills and The Fifth Estate.

The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian Assange. Despite a fair amount of hype, the film has performed poorly so far, earning only US$6m worldwide off a budget of US$28m since its 18 October release.

Friends reunited: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in "Escape Plan".

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.