Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Iron Man 3 - $175.3 million
2. Pain & Gain - $7.6 million
3. 42 - $6.2 million
4. Oblivion - $5.7 million
5. The Croods - $4.2 million
6. The Big Wedding - $3.8 million
7. Mud - $2.1 million
8. Oz the Great and Powerful - $1.8 million
9. Scary Movie 5 - $1.4 million
10 . The Place Beyond the Pines - $1.2 million
The Big Stories
It seemed like it was possible but now it looks to be coming to fruition: Tom Cruise's Oblivion is not going to make $100 million here in the U.S. Despite an impressive start both overseas and locally, the sci-fi film, made up of parts of every sci-fi film you have ever seen, looks to be Universal's first disappointment of 2013. Oh, who are kidding? There is only one major story this week and it is the extraordinary start of Marvel's Iron Man 3. For weeks we had wondered whether the film would open on par with its predecessors or get that Avengers bump courtesy of those who caught up with and discovered the character only last summer. Good luck on those renegotiations to bring back Robert Downey Jr. to the suit. It's going to cost. Not that the studio cannot afford it. Especially after this weekend.
Iron Man Number Two?
For us number and stat geeks, speculating upon this weekend and breaking it down has been an exercise in patience, accusations and surprise. A $68.3 million Friday opening was good enough for 8th best all time. That's behind four of the Twilight films, none of which should be considered when utilizing the term "sample size" at the box office. Jump ahead to The Avengers' $80.8 Friday and The Dark Knight Rises' $75.7 starts. Iron Man 3 kicks off the weekend behind both of them. Despite some ridiculous claims that this may be the best Marvel film ever, nobody was considering that it was going to come close to Avengers-type numbers. Look closer at the completion of Nolan's Batman trilogy. Sure it boasted a higher Friday opening, but at a time when kids had the whole day off of school last July. (At the same time some believed TDKR's Friday opening was hampered by the tragic Aurora shooting.) That film dropped 40.7% on Saturday and another 10.5% on Sunday. The Avengers, meanwhile, dropped a mere 13.9% on its first day and 18% on its second for respective totals of $160.8 million and $207.4 million on opening weekend.
Where was Iron Man 3 going to fall with its "A" Cinemascore rating equal to The Dark Knight Rises? Surely somewhere in between was a fair bit of speculation. While everyone was inflating Friday's number into an astronomical record-breaking one, the more patient among us were ready to call poppycock with something more in the $155 million range. Good enough for maybe the fourth best opening of all time. Sucker. Faster than comic book fans could complain about the film's big twist though, Iron Man 3 dropped a mere 6% on Saturday for another $64 million in the bank. That leaves less than $37 million to pick up on Sunday for the film to pass Harry Potter 7.2 to become the second highest opening in box office history. Estimates have it doing just that and then some.
Biggest Film of the Summer?
Does anyone give another film this summer a chance to take out Iron Man 3 as this season's champion, let alone the year? Are we not all ready to crown it? When mapping out the potential numbers on this summer's blockbusters, I had Iron Man 3 as the runner-up, ahead of all challengers except for one (The Lone Ranger) that some considered surprising at best and foolish at worst and now certainly looks like an impossible feat. (Trust me, there was a method to that madness.) No reason we cannot speculate on how far it will climb though.
Of the six previous films to start with a $150+ million opening, the average percentage of those three-day grosses to their finals is 37.6%. Two of the six (Harry Potter 7.2 and Spider-Man 3) did not go on to reach the $400 million everyone is now expecting Iron Man 3 to pass with ease. The smallest second weekend drops among those six belonged naturally to The Avengers and The Dark Knight (not Rises) which went on to become two of the biggest grossers ever. The average drops among the six comes to 59.88%. To see just how close the average really is, one just needs to look at The Dark Knight Rises (-61.4%), Spider-Man 3 (-61.5%) and The Hunger Games (-61.6%)
If we stick with the average, a drop to $72 million next weekend could be more than what The Great Gatsby grosses in its entire U.S. run. It is not exactly looking at stiff competition in weekend two. Another $35 million during the week would put Iron Man 3 around $282 million in 10 days. Even if this big start is more in line with Harry Potter's 72% drop next week, it will still have about $260 million and either way good enough for fourth best of all time.
The numbers will take their first big hit once Star Trek Into Darkness opens, which many analysts believe will start with over $85 million. Or, as Iron Man 3 calls it, chump change. If IM3 loses half of its audience in weekend three it could be anywhere between $302-336 million, low-to-high end. Then Memorial Day weekend rolls around and the challenge is tripled in the form of Fast & Furious 6, The Hangover Part III and Epic. IM3 will likely be in the teens by then and somewhere around $324-364 million. From there it can tiptoe its way past $350 million or $400 million depending on how word of mouth falls. Its challengers are more immediate, more in general and more anticipated than Battleship and Men in Black III.
The Final Analysis - Disney Wins
$465 million in the U.S. still seems like a gross overestimation for Iron Man 3's true potential. But with over $680 million in the WORLD already (more than either of the first two stand-alone Iron Man films), the $200 million-budgeted film is already in the black and paving the way for Buena Vista to take the summer crown. With June's Monsters University, The Lone Ranger (which can dominate July if it wants to) and its attempt at late-summer family domination with Planes, there is really only one studio even worthy of mounting a serious challenge, but it just saw its perfect 2013 get shot into Oblivion.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]