Weekend Wrap-Up for May 14-16, 2010

Robin Hood On Target; Iron Man 2 Slips

By John Hamann

May 16, 2010

Pepper wants to be alone with the helmet, which we're guessing vibrates.

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There were three hot topics at the suddenly sizzling summer box office. After Iron Man 2 posted a $128 million opening weekend, box office analysts were closely watching to see where the fifth biggest opener of all time was going to end up following its sophomore frame. Secondly, after a string of soft openings, Russell Crowe stepped back into summer this weekend with Robin Hood, and Hollywood eyes were watching to see if a star-driven, effects-lite picture could open in early May. Lastly, we are watching Amanda Seyfried in Letters to Juliet. Seyfried is a definite up and comer, and could add another hit to a resume that includes Mamma Mia! and Dear John early in her movie career.

The number one film of the weekend is Iron Man 2, but the showdown with Robin Hood was much closer than anyone expected. Iron Man 2 had a second weekend gross of $53 million for Marvel Enterprises, and drops a higher than expected 59%. Now out to 4,390 venues (ten more than last weekend), the Robert Downey Jr. starrer had a venue average of $12,073. Iron Man 2 grossed $31 million from Monday-to-Thursday and crossed the $200 million mark on Sunday, its tenth day of release, taking a full day longer than expected. Iron Man 2 has a ten day cume now of $212.2 million. After a strong start, this has to be a worrisome plunge for the folks at Marvel, but despite it, this is going to be a huge film for the studio, as its matched its domestic total to the budget after only ten days of release.


Compared to its fellow huge openers, Iron Man 2's 59% plunge is quite big. The biggest opener of all time, The Dark Knight, dropped only 53% to $75.2 million, after opening to a record-bashing $158.4 million. 2007's Spider Man 3 dropped a similar 62% to $58.2 million after debuting with $151.1 million (like Iron Man 2, it started the silly season in 2007). The aberration in the top five, Twilight New Moon, opened to a staggering $142.8 million, and quickly dropped an embarrassing 70% to $42.9 million. New Moon was released in late November 2009, and is the only picture in the top five not released in summer. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest dropped 54% to $62.3 million after opening to $135.6 million in July 2006. Finally, the original Iron Man dropped only 50% to $51.2 million in 2008, and shows how the mighty have fallen. Iron Man 2 steps away from the trend (without New Moon) with its large drop, and because it had a smaller number on its opening weekend than movies like Dead Man's Chest, it's a troublesome sign for the legs of the Iron Man sequel.

So why the big drop for Iron Man 2 compared to the original, and compared to the other films in the top five? There are a few reasons, but the biggest is simply the dreaded "Sequelitis," and more simply the phenomenon of the summer calendar. Sequelitis often follows big originals like Iron Man. A large following for a picture or a character has been created, usually very well (like in this case). The follow-up opens bigger (Iron Man opened to $101 million, Iron Man 2 to $128 million), but then shrinks twice as fast. With a property like Iron Man, expectations are incredibly hard to meet for the hardcore fans of the franchise, or even the genre. The early reviews for Iron Man 2 showed exactly that, where impartial critics relied heavily on what the original delivered, instead of looking at the sequel based on its own merits. They aren't the only ones. When asking friends whether they liked Iron Man 2 or not, the natural comparison is to the first film, and they say, "not as good as the original." This makes word-of-mouth instantly somewhat negative, despite the film receiving an A Cinemascore.

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