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Sunday, May 4, 2008

'Iron Man' posts massive $100m opening weekend, May 2-4, 2008

After one of the driest springs in recent box office history all it took was a man in an iron suit to jump start the marketplace into the summer season, as Paramount and Marvel Studios' big budget superhero pic Iron Man rocketed to the top spot with an estimated $100.8 million this weekend, posting the tenth largest opening of all-time and second largest non-sequel opening ever (2002's Spider-Man still holds the record with $114.8m).

Crushing most industry-wide expectations for a $70-85 million debut, the $140 million budgeted action-adventure (with some rumors putting it at $180 million) posted a massive $24,543 average in 4,105 theaters. It is the first picture financed through Marvel's newly formed film studio Marvel Studios. Paramount acted only as the film's distributor, much in the same fashion as Lucasfilm Ltd and Fox Studios handled the Star Wars prequels. Universal Studios will handle similar distribution duties for Marvel's upcoming The Incredible Hulk (June 13th).

Much has been written about Paramount and Marvel using its marketing campaign to transform star Robert Downey Jr. into a big budget leading man, and the gamble appears to have paid off. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive (94% on Rottentomatoes.com, making it their highest rated superhero film of all-time), and audience awareness for film -- based on the popular but not necessarily mainstream superhero -- was very high. Co-starring Jeff Bridges, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard, the Jon Favreau-directed blockbuster also took in $96.8 million in 57 international territories, pushing its global debut to an eye-popping $201 million.

Pulling in $35.1 million on its opening day (including Thursday night previews), the film saw a 7% increase in ticket sales on Saturday, indicating very strong word of mouth, particularly for a superhero pic. It is the second biggest debut in the Marvel franchise behind only Spider-Man, and rumors are that a second and third Iron Man film are already in the pipeline. For Paramount, which acted only as the film's distributor, Iron Man was the studio's second largest debut ever behind only last May's Shrek the Third with $121.6 million.

With a lineup of films (Prince Caspian, Indy IV) most likely weaker than last May's triumvirate of Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3, look for Iron Man to dominate the month of May, potentially propelling itself into the $300 million club.

Debuting in second was Sony's counter-programming romantic comedy Made of Honor, which debuted with an estimated $15.5 million this weekend. Starring Patrick Dempsey, the $40 million budgeted pic averaged a solid $5,680 from 2,729 theaters. Reviews were largely brutal.

Last week's champ Baby Mama fell just 41% this weekend to $10.3 million despite the heavy competition, pushing its ten-day take to $32.3 million. Look for the Universal comedy to finish with over $50 million domestically. The studio's other comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall fell 44% to $6.1 million, pushing its cume to $44.8 million.

New Line's comedy Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay fell a nasty 60% in its sophomore frame to $6 million, pushing its ten-day take to $25.3 million. Budgeted at a modest $12 million, the film has already surpassed the entire gross of the original Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, which finished with $18.2 million back in 2004.

Thanks to Iron Man's massive debut (which accounted for nearly two-thirds of the entire box office), the top ten films grossed an estimated $151.9 million, down 15% from last year's comparable frame when Spider-Man 3 shattered records with $151.1 million, but up 62% from 2006 when MI: III topped with $47.7 million.

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