Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Iron Man Soars to Eye-Popping $104M Debut

Marvel holds audiences in an Iron grip.

by | May 4, 2008 | Comments

Paramount Pictures and its baby mama Marvel Studios were the proud parents of
an explosive new movie franchise as the super hero film Iron Man
blasted off to jaw-dropping ticket sales around the world officially kicking off
the summer blockbuster season. The comic book actioner led the overall box
office to its biggest weekend of the year and accounted for two-thirds of all
business in the top ten. Opening in second with commendable numbers was the
wedding-themed romantic comedy Made
of Honor
which gave women not interested in flying metal men something
to see. Following a dismal spring season, the summer got started with a bang.

Iron Man crushed
its competitors this weekend with a stunning estimate of $100.8M in ticket sales
over the Friday-to-Sunday period delivering the tenth largest opening of
all-time and the second highest ever for a non-sequel after the $114.8M of
2002’s Marvel Comics sibling Spider-Man.
The Robert Downey Jr.
flick began its run on Thursday at 8pm with advance showtimes grossing $3.5M in
the four-hour period ending at midnight, the official start of Friday. That
amounted to a gargantuan $104.3M in just over three days easily outdistancing
industry expectations which were in the $70-90M range. Co-starring
Jeff Bridges,
Terrence Howard,
Gwyneth Paltrow,
Jon Favreau-directed
blockbuster averaged a stellar $24,543 from a saturation release in 4,105

Overseas, Iron Man invaded 57 territories and made off with a terrific
$96.8M putting the global launch at a humongous $201M since the first
international openings on Wednesday.

In North America, Friday took off with a massive $35.1M in grosses (including
shows beginning at midnight on Thursday night). Sales inched up 7% on Saturday
to $37.5M which was impressive since many super hero films see their numbers
decline on Saturday. The studio is estimating a Sunday drop of only 25% to
$28.1M. Audience research showed that an understandable 65% were male while 55%
were over 25. Reports on Iron Man‘s production cost have varied from
$140M to $180M, but the negative cost should be easily recouped given the
tremendous response worldwide.

In the Marvel stable, only its crown jewel Spider-Man has seen a better
franchise debut with the first film’s opening amounting to roughly $140M at
today’s ticket prices. Adjusting for 2008 prices, opening weekends for other
first installments from the comic giant would be approximately $71M for 2000’s
X-Men, $73M for 2003’s The Hulk, and $62M for 2005’s Fantastic
. Iron Man’s opening zoomed a good $30-40M higher.

Most were not expecting a nine-digit debut from the Tony Stark pic since the
Iron Man character is not as well-known as other super heroes like Spider-Man,
Batman, or even The Hulk. But a massive marketing push, overwhelmingly positive
reviews, and a release on the first weekend of May when no other event films
were out helped it to dominate the attention of movie fans everywhere. For
Paramount it was the second largest debut in company history trailing only the
$121.6M of last May’s animated sequel Shrek the Third that it released
for DreamWorks. The studio’s previous high for a live-action film was with last
July’s Transformers (another DreamWorks winner) which opened to a
Friday-to-Sunday score of $70.5M after a mid-week bow.

Iron Man‘s success also comes as good news to Marvel since this is its
first fully financed and produced picture as part of its new arrangement where
it will retain more of the risks and rewards for its future super hero flicks.
It would be shocking not to see at least two sequels come out of this franchise
so the profits will flow for years to come.

Most multiplexes played Iron Man on multiple screens in order to fulfill
intense demand, however Paramount did not report the total number of prints in
the marketplace. Looking at recent May behemoths, Spider-Man 3 and 2005’s
Star Wars Episode III opened with 10,000 and 9,400 prints respectively.
It would not be surprising if Iron Man seized control of more than 9,000
total screens as well this weekend.

Despite absorbing so much demand upfront, Iron Man boasts indicators that
it could have decent legs. Critics have poured on the praise leading to a
staggering 94% score on RottenTomatoes.com which is the best of any wide release
this year and tops among all super hero flicks ever. Plus exit polls taken this
weekend by CinemaScore have delivered a fantastic A grade making the metal guy
one of those rare action movies to be a winner with both critics and ticket
buyers alike. Last year Spider-Man 3 met with lukewarm word-of-mouth
after its record bow which accounted for a whopping 45% of its eventual final
domestic haul of $336.5M. Opening weekend percentages for other high profile
openers from the start of May include 28% for Spider-Man, 34% for 2001’s
The Mummy Returns, and 40% for X2: X-Men United. Given Iron Man‘s
strong buzz and the calendar ahead, a final domestic tally of $250M is certainly
within reach.

Thanks to Iron Man, eight of the top ten opening weekends of all-time
have come from the lucrative month of May. The explosive launch of the Stark pic
will be good for the entire industry since millions of moviegoers this weekend
got to see trailers for upcoming summer films and may be getting back into the
habit of visiting their local multiplexes.

Patrick Dempsey,
who like Robert Downey Jr. began his career as a teen hunk in the 1980s, found
himself one step behind the guest of honor with his new romantic comedy
of Honor
which grossed an estimated $15.5M during its opening weekend.
The PG-13 film about a man who falls for his recently-engaged female best friend
averaged a solid $5,680 from 2,729 locations. Sony positioned the
critically-panned offering as a counter-programming choice against Iron Man
for women uninterested in comic book antics. Not surprisingly, females made up
68% of the crowd according to studio research while 62% were over the age of 25.
The Grey’s Anatomy star’s new film carried a budget of just under $40M

Despite new competition from a tentpole juggernaut and a hit romantic comedy,
the Universal laugher Baby Mama held up very
well in its second weekend dropping 41% to an estimated $10.3M. With a solid
$32.3M in ten days, the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler pic looks set to find its way to
around $55M.

The studio claimed the fourth slot too with its other female-skewing comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall
which fell a moderate 44% to an estimated $6.1M lifting the cume to $44.8M
making it the top-grossing picture of the year for Universal. The studio has
struggled in 2008 and ranks dead last in marketshare among the big six studios,
but hopes to turn things around this summer with big-budget action entries like
The Incredible Hulk, Angelina’s Jolie’s Wanted, and The Mummy:
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Audiences have been very kind to female-skewing comedies in recent weeks with
, Baby, and Sarah all connecting with moviegoers and
opening to $15-18M each. The marketplace has expanded to accommodate all three
and an additional test will come next weekend when yet another player, Fox’s
What Happens in Vegas
starring Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, debuts
nationwide. It boasts the most starpower of the foursome, but also looks the
least funny.

New Line’s guy comedy
Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
fell sharply in its second weekend and ranked fifth with an estimated $6M. Down
60%, the $12M sequel has grossed $25.3M in ten days and should reach the
neighborhood of $35M by the end of its run. That would double the $18.2M that
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
smoked up in 2004.

Jackie Chan
and Jet Li got
pummeled by the man of iron as their martial arts adventure film The Forbidden Kingdom
tumbled 63% to an estimated $4.2M boosting the cume to a solid $45.1M for
Lionsgate and The Weinstein Co. Fox’s kidpic Nim’s Island
dropped a moderate 40% to an estimated $2.8M and lifted its total to $42.5M.

A trio of Sony releases followed. The teen thriller Prom Night
dipped by 45% to an estimated $2.5M giving the studio $41.4M to date. The
popular blackjack drama 21 took in an estimated $2.1M, off 48%, and
increased its winnings to a stellar $79.1M. It is the eighth film released this
year to break the $75M mark which is the same amount at this point last year.
Rounding out the top ten was the Al Pacino misfire 88 Minutes
which dropped 56% to an estimated $1.6M giving Sony a miserable $15.4M thus far.

Two new releases enjoyed solid debuts in limited release. David Mamet’s martial
arts drama

bowed to an estimated $69,000 from six locations for a $11,441 average. The
R-rated film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tim Allen. Paramount Vantage generated
an average almost as good with its British comedy Son of Rambow
which debuted in five houses with an estimated $53,000 for $10,510 per site. The
film festival darling will expand to 30 theaters in a dozen additional markets
this Friday.

Fox saw two films on the opposite ends of the box office spectrum drop out of
the top ten this weekend. The Dr. Seuss toon Horton Hears a Who
grossed an estimated $1.4M, down 46%, for a robust cume to date of $149.8M.
Still the top-grossing film of the year for a few more days, the G-rated comedy
reuniting the dream team of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell should finish its run
with $152-154M. Later this week, Horton will become Carrey’s fifth film to break
the $150M domestic mark.

The studio’s crime thriller Deception
has been completely ignored by moviegoers and crumbled 63% in its second weekend
to an estimated $865,000 and embarrassing $432 average. With only $4M taken in
thus far, a puny $5-6M final seems likely.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $151.9M which was down 15% from last year
when Spider-Man 3 opened to a record $151.1M; but up 62% from 2006 when
Mission: Impossible III debuted at number one with $47.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

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