Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Iron Man 3 Soars Above the Rest

Tony Stark and company have one of the biggest opening weekends in history.

by | May 5, 2013 | Comments

Tony Stark obliterated the competition as the much-anticipated super hero sequel Iron Man 3 generated the second biggest opening weekend in box office history and also became the top-grossing global blockbuster of 2013. Domestic audiences spent a jaw-dropping $175.3M this weekend, according to estimates, seeing the third installment in the Marvel franchise including grosses from Thursday night shows starting at 9:00pm. Playing in 4,253 theaters, the PG-13 actioner averaged a scorching $41,218 per location and was helped by surcharges for the 3D conversion.

9% of the weekend gross ($16.5M) came from the 326 higher-priced IMAX screens. Overall, 45% of the frame came from 3D screens representing a drop from The Avengers which was 52% a year ago this same weekend. That Marvel assembly of super heroes still holds the all-time record for opening weekend with a staggering $207.4M putting Robert Downey Jr. in the two biggest debuts in industry history. Both films were released by Disney on the first weekend of May kicking off the summer movie season against zero competition.

Iron Man 3‘s gargantuan run started off with $15.6M in Thursday night shows from 9:00pm into the post-midnight hours. The full opening day gross (including all Thursday night business) was $68.3M. That stands as the eighth best opening day ever. The real magic for the Stark-vs-Mandarin pic came on Saturday when the film declined by only 9% to $62.2M. By comparison, last year Avengers witnessed a larger 14% dip on Saturday coming off of a Friday gross that did not include Thursday night business starting so early. Iron Man 2‘s Saturday drop was 11%.

With threequels usually eroding faster than their predecessors – especially when release weekends are identical – it was extraordinary that Iron Man 3 held up so well in its second day. Disney projected that Sunday would drop by 28% to $44.8M. Sunday falls for Avengers and Iron Man 2 were 18% and 32%, respectively.

Iron Man 2 was seen as disappointing creatively by many fans and normally that would have prompted some of the audience to skip out on another chapter in the series. However, Avengers was so well-liked that it erased that bad taste and even expanded the overall fan base which Iron Man 3 capitalized on this weekend. Word of mouth is good so far as the CinemaScore grade was an A and also reviews have been fairly positive. Avengers scored higher in both categories, however for a threequel to earn these marks is terrific and bodes well for the weeks ahead. The next big action tentpole is Star Trek Into Darkness opening on IMAX on May 15 and in conventional theaters on Thursday May 16 so Iron Man 3 has a good week and a half of clear sailing to soar past the $200M and $300M marks. Even if it plays out with the same declines as Iron Man 2, it would break $400M as well by the end of the domestic run.

The new blockbuster was once again anchored by superstar Robert Downey Jr. who can now claim to be the only movie star with $500M+ global blockbusters over the last six consecutive years. This comes from three Iron Man films, two Sherlock Holmes movies, and of course Avengers. Once hitting rock bottom in his career, the acclaimed actor has used his immense skills to turn things around and make himself into the world’s top box office draw.

Audience breakdown for Iron Man 3 was identical to Avengers when it came to gender – 61% male. But the new Stark movie played a little older with 55% being over 25 compared to 50% for the super hero value pack. As for the entire marketplace, with Iron Man 3 absorbing all the free screens within each multiplex it accounted for a whopping 80% of the entire box office this weekend with no other wide releases daring to open and no holdover hitting double digit millions. Iron Man completely dominated the marketplace. Avengers commanded the exact same share of the box office one year ago this weekend when it crushed its foes.

This is the seventh consecutive year that Marvel seized control over the lucrative first weekend in May to kickoff the summer movie season. Though its characters have done it before, the current streak started in 2007 with Sony’s Spider-Man 3 continuing with 2008’s Iron Man, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2011’s Thor, and Avengers last year. The comic giant has no intention of giving up this prime piece of box office real estate and has already planted its flag on May 2 next year with Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well as May 1, 2015 for The Avengers 2 which could conceivably score an opening weekend that breaks the $250M mark. They are essentially telling every other film to backoff. And it would surprise nobody if Marvel and Disney claim May 6, 2016 for a fourth Iron Man film. But next up are super sequels with Thor returning this November and Captain America next April.

Iron Man 3 was also a colossal behemoth at the overseas box office this weekend where it played in its second round in most territories. The Marvel hero grossed a stellar $175.9M driven by new openings in China ($63.5M in 5 days), Russia ($21.7M in 4), and Germany ($10M in 5). That boosted the international total to a mammoth $504.8M and the global haul to a jaw-dropping $680.1M in under two weeks. That’s even more than the $655M that Avengers grossed in the same 12 days last year. Release dates were mostly the same as it too opened in most overseas markets one week before domestic to capitalize on the May Day holiday which is not celebrated in the U.S. The main difference is that Iron Man 3 opened in China three days earlier. With local partner DMG involved in producing the film, extra footage for a special version only for Chinese audiences, and Chinese stars added in, the results were record-breaking for Iron Man 3 in that market where it smashed the all-time opening day record on Wednesday with an estimated $21.5M.

Trailing lucrative China, the next best results for Iron Man 3 came from two-week cumes in Korea ($42.6M), the U.K. ($38.3M), Mexico ($35.8M), Brazil ($30.1M), Australia ($28.4M), France ($27.8M), and Russia’s $21.7M from just the opening weekend. With nearly two weeks of clear sailing in most offshore markets (Star Trek Into Darkness debuts in six markets next weekend plus previews in others), Iron Man 3 could very well be on a trajectory towards the $1.3 billion mark in worldwide box office.

The rest of the top ten featured scraps of spring leftovers fighting over what was left of the box office pie. The Mark Wahlberg-Dwayne Johnson action-comedy Pain & Gain tumbled from the number one spot and lost 63% of its business. Paramount grossed an estimated $7.6M putting the ten-day take at $33.9M. Produced for a reported $26M, the Michael Bay film should end its domestic run with about $45M.

The baseball drama 42 held up well dipping 42% to an estimated $6.2M giving Warner Bros. $78.3M to date. Tom Cruise’s sci-fi adventure Oblivion followed with an estimated $5.8M, down 67%, for a $76M domestic total to date for Universal. Hit toon The Croods eased by just 37% to an estimated $4.2M and upped its cume to $168.7M.

Dropping 49% was the critically-panned Lionsgate title The Big Wedding with an estimated $3.9M for a lousy $14.2M cume in ten days. Matthew McConaughey’s new film Mud jumped into the top ten in its second weekend of moderate play with an estimated $2.2M from 576 locations for a mild $3,733 per theater. Roadside Attractions added 213 new sites boosting the theater count by 59% following its eleventh place debut last week. The weekend dip in grosses was only 3% and the cume is $5.2M.

Also making about as much this weekend as last time was the year’s top domestic blockbuster (for now) Oz the Great and Powerful with an estimated $1.8M, even with last weekend. Disney coupled the fantasy adventure with Iron Man 3 for many drive-in double features nationwide and got to loot some extra cash off of Tony Stark’s popularity. The studio did the same thing with John Carter and The Avengers a year ago. Oz has now banked $228.6M from North America and $485.6M worldwide.

Crashing 58% was the spoof sequel Scary Movie 5 with an estimated $1.4M giving The Weinstein Co. $29.6M to date. The Focus title The Place Beyond The Pines rounded out the top ten with an estimated $1.3M, down 52%, for a $18.7M cume.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $209.7M which was down 15% from last year when The Avengers debuted at number one with a record $207.4M; but up 37% from 2011 when Thor opened in the top spot with $65.7M.

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