In the words of a summer blockbuster from a couple years past, “And here we … go!” This year’s summer season kicks off with arguably its heaviest hitter, and could see records broken from its very first day.
Weekend Forecast for May 7-9, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
May 7, 2010
It was two years ago this weekend that Iron Man kicked off that year’s summer season with a surprising $102 million debut weekend. The second-tier Marvel character launched into the first tier of superhero films thanks to a quick-moving plot full of action, a sense of humour, and a star-(re)making performance from Robert Downey Jr. Sort of a sunnier and more technologically-based version of Batman, it’s now carrying the flag for Marvel as their tentpole property.
The inevitable sequel arrives this weekend with Tony Stark now more comfortable in his role as a one-man billionaire army and public superhero, living the high-life. After revealing his identity at the end of the first film, he’s under some pressure to turn over his powered armor to the US government, but otherwise it’s good to be him. For conflict’s sake, some rain’s got to fall, and that arrives in the form of a disgruntled Russian scientist (Mickey Rourke, an amalgam of Whiplash and the Crimson… and I’ve gone full nerd. Sorry), who creates his own weapon-suit to attack Iron Man – basically because he can, really.
That’s your second act moment of crisis in the classic plot structure, and allows for Stark to enlist some help from Col. Rhodes (Don Cheadle, taking over from the possibly insane Terrence Howard), who suits up as War Machine, and Black Widow, a Russian secret agent who manhandles security guards in the most delightful way, played by Scarlett Johansson. Gwyneth Paltrow also returns as Pepper Potts, with Sam Rockwell joining the cast as the unfortunately named Justin Hammer.
Ads for the sequel have retained the original’s sense of humor and awe, amping up the action with promises of more robot-on-robot action and plenty of fanservice (two words: suitcase armor). So at this point, it seems reasonable to see what kind of sequel jump we might see.
The granddaddy of all these is Austin Powers, which surpassed the entire take of its original film with its sequel’s opening weekend. More pertinent are franchises like Batman, X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Matrix, all of which saw huge jumps in their second outings after their proof-of-concept first films. Iron Man 2 can’t have the same kind of percentage jump as some of those films simply because it started off so well, but they’re examples of just how dramatic the difference can be when the public accepts a film.
So, there’s a gigantic number coming, but how gigantic? It’s a bit like throwing darts at the upper end of things, but it’s useful to look at what the records are, for possibilities. Biggest single day: $72.7 million. Biggest single weekend: $158.4 million. The first number is probably not challengeable by Iron Man 2, but the second figure probably is. With full media saturation on this sequel, there’s a very real opportunity for it to become the highest weekend earner ever, although in the past these things have grown by monumental leaps rather than incrementally. For that reason I think we’re going to see it fall just short at around $153 million this weekend.
This time around, everything else is basically staying clear of Iron Man, with just the documentary Babies hitting any number of theaters. A year in the life of four different babies in four different locations around the world, it’s …Oh look, more Iron Man 2 screenings! So, yeah, I’m sure this is fascinating and educational and all, but there’s no way this stands a chance. Opening on around 500 screens, it should hit around $2 million this weekend.
This leads us to the returning films, headed up by the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Although its $32 million opening is basically found money and puts it in the black right off the bat, there’s little expectation that this is anything more than a one-week wonder. First of all, it’s a horror film, and secondly, it’s a pretty bad one by most accounts.
Some recent horror remakes have set ignominious records for weekend drop offs, with the primary leader being Friday the 13th, which dropped 80% in its second weekend and barely earned 1.5 times its initial weekend’s take in the final analysis. That’s a record for futility that’s unlikely to be approached here, but you can’t rule out something close to that, and a drop of 70% or more seems entirely possible. Give it $10 million for this weekend.
Pretty much the opposite of Elm Street in terms of legs (and most other things) is How to Train Your Dragon, which has dropped no lower than third in six weekends of release and is about to cross the $200 million threshold. With just one new release able to pass it this weekend, it’ll stay at least in third, earning around $8 million.
Date Night has also managed to salvage a just-okay opening weekend and make it into a better total gross, though not to the same extent. The $25 million start the Carrell/Fey romantic comedy had is looking like about a $90 million finish for it, with about $5 million more this weekend.