Weekend Box Office: THE GREAT GATSBY Delivers Big $51.1 Million Debut but IRON MAN 3 Still Reigns

     May 12, 2013

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It isn’t easy to outshine Iron Man but that’s just what The Great Gatsby has done. Warner Brothers’ 3D adaptation of the classic novel may have come in second this weekend, but it was a much bigger draw than expected – earning an estimated $51.1 million from 3,035 locations. Iron Man 3 was always destined to be the easy winner on its second weekend, but the novelty of Gatsby’s success means that, on this particular May frame, the superhero will have to settle for first place… and second billing.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Iron Man 3 $72,472,000 $284.8
2.  The Great Gatsby 3D $51,115,000 $51.1
3.  Pain & Gain $5,000,000 $41.6
4.  42 $4,650,000 $84.7
5.  Peeples $4,850,000 $4.8
6.  Oblivion $3,900,000 $81.6
7.  The Croods $3,600,000 $173.2
8.  The Big Wedding $2,500,000 $18.2
9.  Mud
$2,343,000 $8.3
10.  Oz the Great & Powerful
$802,000 $229.9

the-great-gatsby-posterYou may be wondering why the $51.1 million debut of The Great Gatsby would be enough to steal headlines from Iron Man 3 this weekend. Director Baz Lurmann’s film didn’t break any all-time records and, on the heels of last week’s blockbuster opening, anything less than enormous might appear underwhelming. But here’s the thing: superhero sequels are genetically engineered to be huge money-makers, making Iron Man 3’s success completely predictable. The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, was a financial gamble. And there’s nothing box office watchers like better than when a big gamble pays off.

In light of today’s opening, it may be hard to remember why The Great Gatsby was deemed such a risky bet. An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved novel starring one of Hollywood’s most popular actors seems like a no-brainer – and yet the same formula resulted in box office disaster at least three times since Gatsby was first published in 1925. The announcement that Baz Luhrmann would direct was also no predictor of success. Considered a visionary following Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann last helmed a mainstream box office hit… never. In fact, his 2008 epic Australia was viewed as an expensive misstep in the US, though the film’s international reception was far kinder.

On top of its questionable credentials, early buzz on The Great Gatsby was not encouraging. The budget was reportedly ‘out of control’ (between $105 and $200 before marketing, depending on the source), and the move from a prestigious December release date to the ‘dead zone’ of May’s second frame seemed to signal trouble. In fact, The Great Gatsby may not be clear of trouble even now. Audiences gave the film a so-so ‘B’ CinemaScore and critics have saddled it with an even less impressive 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. With Star Trek Into Darkness on deck, Gatsby could prove to be a one-week only phenom.

Still, there is no denying that today’s estimate is a win for Warner Brothers: especially considering that, as recently as two weeks ago, box office pundits were comparing The Great Gatsby to Dark Shadows, which debuted to a disastrous $29.2 million debut on this weekend last year.

iron-man-3-final-poster-cleanNow that we’ve examined the weekend’s second place film from all angles, I suppose it’s only right to devote a few lines to the winner. From 4,253 locations, Iron Man 3 earned an estimated $72.4 million in its sophomore frame – a drop of 58% over its record-breaking debut. At this time last year, The Avengers was off by just 50% – and the original Iron Man held even better (-48%) on this weekend in 2008. Still, the blockbuster performed as expected – even after adjusting for Gatsby’s surprisingly lucrative debut.

Along with its title for the second-highest opening weekend of all-time, Iron Man 3 now claims the fourth-highest sophomore weekend in history. The film’s new domestic cume of $283 million is currently 35% ahead of Iron Man 2 while its enormous global cume of $948 million falls just outside of the top twenty highest-grossing films of all time, worldwide.

There was one additional wide release this weekend: Tyler Perry Presents Peeples. From 2,041 locations Peeples earned an estimated $4.8 million. That was a bit better than Friday’s tiny estimate of $1.1 million promised for the Perry-produced project, though far from the $20+ million debuts the box office has come to expect from films directed (rather than “presented by”) Tyler Perry.

In one final bit of news, Roadside Attractions’ Mud made it into the top ten this weekend, earning an estimated $2.3 million from just 834 locations.  It’s important to give the Indies their due – especially considering that, during this particular month, they are competing against some of the most anticipated titles of the entire year. That includes next week’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Four years ago, JJ Abrams’ first Trek feature opened to over $75 million. The sequel should be closer to the $100 million mark by this time next week.

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