Iron Man 3 and Robert Downey Jr. Soar to $175.3 Million Opening Weekend

Iron Man 3 and Robert Downey Jr. Soar to $175.3 Million Opening WeekendDisney and Marvel’s Iron Man 3 ignited the 2013 Summer Movie Season this weekend. The much-anticipated follow up easily commanded the North American box office and left everything else in the dust. The return of Tony Stark helped bring the box office up 168% from last weekend, but wasn’t enough to top last year’s top ten at this time when Marvel’s The Avengers arrived and began its conquest of the 2012 box office.

While the latest film in the Iron Man series technically is a follow up to the 2010 second installment, Marvel and Disney are treating this more like a follow up to The Avengers. Since the latter was better liked and a bigger success than Iron Man 2, the strategy proved to be a smart one. Iron Man 3 landed in 4,253 theaters – of which a percentage were IMAX and 3D equipped – and went on to earn a phenomenal $175.3 million ($41, 218 per screen average) since starting its run Thursday night at 9pm. While not quite reaching the dizzying highs of The Avengers $207 million weekend debut, Iron Man 3 did wind up with the second best opening weekend of all time, passing the final Harry Potter’s opening of $169 million two summers ago.

Reviews were good for the Shane Black-directed and co-written feature,which reunites series members Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Paul Bettany while adding Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley. The film earned a 78% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which was up from the 73% the second one earned, but still a bit below the 93% the original was bestowed five years ago. While many a fanboy seemed to take issue online with the way the character played by Kingsley was ultimately handled (personally, I thought it was one of the best parts of the movie), most ticket buyers did not and just sat back and enjoyed the latest Iron Man adventure. They gave the movie an “A” rating on CinemaScore, which should translate into positive word of mouth and a nice, healthy run right through Memorial Day weekend.

That feedback may already be taking effect as evidenced by the very slight drop in business on Saturday rather than the typical blockbuster drop after a front-loaded rush to see it opening day. Friday’s gross stands at $68.3 million (this includes the $15.6 million earned on Thursday night) while Saturday only lost nine percent of business and brought in $62.2 million. In comparison, The Avengers eased 14% in its second day of release but only cooled off 18% on its first Sunday. The Sunday drop for IM3 is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 28%, which would translate into a $44.7 million gross. When all is said and done, this third Tony Stark adventure should be looking at a domestic gross near the $400 million mark, roughly $80 million more than the previous two installments made. Add to this the runaway success the movie is experiencing overseas ($504 million after a week and a half of release), and the billion dollar club should welcome Tony and his pals within the next one to two weeks.

The remainder of the top ten was a bit of a ghost town of springtime leftovers that few seemed to be interested in. Paramount’s R-rated comedy Pain & Gain got flabby real fast following its mediocre $20 million opening last weekend. The Michael Bay-directed feature lost 62% of its audience to earn a puny $7.6 million in its second go around. To date, Pain & Gain has earned $34 million and may fight its way to the $50 million mark, which would represent the lowest gross for a Bay-directed feature since The Island earned a dismal $35 million eight years ago.

Warner’s 42 continued to earn respectable money in its fourth weekend of release. The Jackie Robinson biopic eased 41% to earn $6.2 million and bring its total to a solid $78.3 million. The movie should finish its theatrical season between $90-95 million.

Taking a direct hit from Iron Man 3 was Universal’s Tom Cruise epic Oblivion. The Sci-fi epic dropped 67% in its third weekend of release to earn $5.7 million on 3,430 screens. To date, the film has earned $76 million and should finish near the $85 million mark.

In fifth place was Fox/Dreamworks’ long-running hit The Croods, which like 42 managed to withstand the Iron onslaught and continue to bring audiences in. The prehistoric family lost only 37% of its audience to earn an estimated $4.2 million on 2,915 screens to bring its domestic total to $168.7 million. The domestic total should wind down near the $180 million mark for the $135 million production.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate) $3.87 million (-49%); $13.2 million
7. Mud (Roadside Attractions) $2.1 million (-3%); $5.1 million
8. Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney) $1.8 million (+0.6%); $228.5 million
9. Scary Movie 5 (Dimension/Weinstein) $1.4 million (-58%); $29.6 million
10. The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) $1.298 million (-52%); $18.6 million

The 2013 version of The Great Gatsby and the comedy Peeples arrive in a battle for second place behind Iron Man 3 and Robert Downey Jr. next weekend. The next competition for Tony Stark and pals comes a week later when the J.J. Abrams sequel Star Trek Into Darkness arrives on the scene.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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