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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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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