Friday, May 7, 2010

As Iron Man 2 takes its shot at the record books...

I've been saying for two years that Iron Man 2 has a solid shot of knocking The Dark Knight off the top of the opening-weekend record books. I still feel that way, even if my thoughts are colored by the fact that I didn't care much for the film. Of course, The Dark Knight was the rare universally-beloved such record breaker since. In the post-Batman era, only Jurassic Park and Spider-Man would qualify as overall audience favorites. The later opening-weekend champs, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, The Lost World, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Spider-Man 3, were not exactly word of mouth sensations (that I love Batman Returns and rather like Harry Potter 1 and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 does not negate the fact that many did not). As always, opening weekends are about marketing while the second weekends are about quality. Furthermore, when it comes to sequels, the biggest weapon you can have is audience goodwill from the prior installment, which Iron Man 2 has in spades. And, with the exception of the somewhat surprising debut 2.06x comparative increase of Twilight Saga: New Moon, it's also the first plausible contender to actually open on a Friday since July 08 (which in turn would have made Twilight Saga: Eclipse a genuine contender for the crown if it weren't opening on a Wednesday).

Well, for the Tony Stark sequel to top the $158.4 million scored by The Dark Knight, it will have to gross 1.606x the original film's $98.6 million opening weekend take (counting the Thursday night screenings, the 3.5 day total was $102 million). That's certainly a plausible figure, as it falls right below with the 1.65x increase for the opening weekend of Quantum of Solace compared to Casino Royale and right above the 1.57x increase enjoyed by the opening weekend of X2: X-Men United versus the original X-Men. Predictions by the box office punditry are pretty consistent.

Box Office Derby - $144 million
Box Office Mojo's Derby game average guess - $146 million
Box Office Guru - $148 million
Entertainment Weekly - $150 million
Box Office Prophets - $153 million
Coming Soon - $162 million

So, the general consensus is that Iron Man 2 will come awfully close, but won't actually topple Batman's record. The negative side of all this hyperventilating is that the film could very well be labeled a disappointment if it 'only' grosses $115-135 million. For the record, should it gross on the lower side of fantastic, don't be one of those idiots that screams 'FAILURE!'. And know that whatever the case, expect Paramount to underestimate the Sunday figures (especially with the wild-card that is Mother's Day). The last thing they want is to have a record breaking weekend to brag about on Sunday only to have to retract it on Monday. Better to play it cool on Sunday and then get an extra day of press by boasting that they actually grossed $3 million more than they thought they did. It worked for Batman Begins and it worked for Star Trek. And with that, I leave you for the moment. There is nothing more to do than wait for the probably inaccurate Friday night numbers from Nikki Finke, and then the more reliable Saturday morning numbers from Box Office Guru. My weekend schedule is a little busy so I can't promise as-it-happens updates. But for the moment, check out my lengthy article from the last time the opening weekend fell, when the caped crusader returned to take back the record that he more or less invented. Good times...

Scott Mendelson

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