The summer movie season kicked off with the thunderous opening of the eagerly awaited super hero sequel Iron Man 2 which hauled in an estimated $133.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period making for the fifth biggest debut of all-time. Paramount released the Marvel production in a mammoth 4,380 theaters including 181 venues with IMAX screens making it the widest bow in history edging out the 4,366-theater release of The Dark Knight in July 2008. The new Tony Stark film averaged a scorching $30,502 per site.
Hollywood’s only blockbusters to open bigger were Knight with $158.4M, Spider-Man 3 with $151.1M, The Twilight Saga: New Moon with $142.8M, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with $135.6M. Iron Man 2 registered the largest debut in company history for Paramount beating Shrek the Third‘s $121.6M and was second-best among May titles behind another Marvel sequel launching over the first weekend of the month – the third Spidey flick.
Robert Downey Jr. once again played the title role with Jon Favreau directing and Gwenyth Paltrow co-starring. New players this time for the $170M production were Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, and Don Cheadle. Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo in the first installment was expanded into a supporting role this time giving the actor the coveted ‘and’ credit. Rourke snagged the almost-as-cool ‘with’ credit. Numerous promotional partners added marketing muscle to the campaign including Burger King, Audi, 7-Eleven, Dr. Pepper, Oracle, and Hershey’s Reese’s brand.
Fans powered the first Iron Man to an opening of $102.1M (including Thursday night shows starting at 8pm) two years ago over the first weekend of May ahead of a leggy run that reached $318.4M. The sequel’s opening was 31% better and benefited from 7% more theaters, two years of ticket price increases, and the addition of an IMAX release which took advantage of higher ticket prices. IM2 set a new record for biggest 2D IMAX opening with $10.2M from 181 screens beating the $8.5M from 138 of last May’s Star Trek, also a Paramount release.
As with its predecessor, Iron Man 2 scored an encouraging A grade from CinemaScore indicating great satisfaction from paying audiences. Critics were not as enthusiastic this time around but in general reviews were good, especially for a comic book sequel. Exit polls showed that 60% of the crowd was male and 60% was over 25. Friday kicked off with a stunning $52.3M in ticket sales including $7.5M in Thursday night post-midnight shows, Saturday dipped 11% to $46.5M, and Sunday is estimated to slide by 25% to $34.9M. The metal man accounted for a whopping 78% of all sales for the top ten movies this weekend as competition hardly existed and rival studios steered clear of releasing anything big against it.
Overseas, where the Stark gang debuted a week earlier, ticket sales hit an estimated $57.2M this weekend lifting the international tally to $194M. That makes for a massive $190.8M global weekend gross and a $327.6M cume to date worldwide in under two weeks. Even with large sequel-type declines in the weeks ahead, Iron Man 2 should have no problem zooming past the $582M global haul of its predecessor paving the way for a third chapter which Marvel is already planning.
Freddy Krueger took a tumble as expected. The horror remake A Nightmare on Elm Street fell a sharp 72% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.2M putting it in a distant second place. It was a larger sophomore fall than those for other fright redos like Halloween (64%) and Prom Night (58%) but did not reach the incredibly high 80% crash suffered by Friday the 13th last year. With $48.5M in ten days, Nightmare should end up with a solid $60-65M nearly matching the $65M of the Jason remake.
Holding up well yet again in its seventh weekend of release was the 3D sensation How To Train Your Dragon which slipped only 36% to an estimated $6.8M boosting the hit toon into the double-century club with $201.1M to date. A final domestic take of $220-225M seems likely.
Fox’s leggy comedy hit Date Night followed with an estimated $5.3M in its fifth weekend, down only 30%, for a $80.9M cume to date. The Jennifer Lopez pic The Back-up Plan dropped 40% to an estimated $4.3M giving CBS Films $29.4M thus far.
Summit’s family flop Furry Vengeance fell 40% to an estimated $4M resulting in a poor ten-day tally of just $11.6M. Clash of the Titans took a big hit from Iron Man 2 tumbling 61% to an estimated $2.3M. After its sixth frame, the Warner Bros. 3D adventure has banked $157.8M.
Chris Rock’s latest comedy Death at a Funeral followed with an estimated $2.1M, off 49%, for a $38.3M sum for Sony. The Losers ranked ninth collapsing 69% to an estimated $1.8M with $21.5M to date for Warner Bros.
Three films fought over tenth place with estimated grosses between $1.5M and $1.6M but if Sunday estimates are to be believed, the documentary Babies narrowly won the race. Opening to weak results, the PG-rated film about the first year of life for four babies growing up in different parts of the world grossed an estimated $1.6M from 534 theaters for a lackluster $2,951 average. Focus went unusually wide with the launch as most non-Michael Moore documentaries do not bow in this many theaters on the first weekend. Disney’s nature films Oceans and Earth are two examples of wide releases for the genre as both were tied into Earth Day. Babies was slated for Mother’s Day weekend, however its target audience of new parents rarely get time to go out to the movies at that stage of life. A much larger crowd is likely to catch it on DVD and VOD. Reviews for the French-produced doc were generally positive.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $171M which was up 23% from last year when Star Trek opened in the top spot with $75.2M ($79.2M including Thursday night); and up 48% from 2008 when Iron Man remained at number one with $51.2M. During those two years, this was the second weekend of summer and not the kickoff.