Weekend Wrap-Up

Gatsby Great Against Iron Man 3

By John Hamann

May 12, 2013

Soon this will be a challenge on The Amazing Race.

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However, let’s remember that even a film like Thor made $450 million worldwide against a budget of $150 million; the original Iron Man made $585 million worldwide against a $140 million budget; Iron Man 2 did $625 million versus a $200 million budget; and Marvel’s Avengers did $1.5 billion versus its $220 million budget. That’s $3.2 billion in box office versus $710 million in costs, and doesn’t include the billion plus that Iron Man 3 will earn versus its $200 million budget (or all of the residual dollars that Marvel sees from toys, books, comics, blankets and video games.

What we don’t see in these budget numbers, though, is not only the marketing expense (likely another $600 million for the films mentioned above, and not including Iron Man 3), but also the back end percentages that the actors have likely negotiated. To get Downey back for Avengers 2 or Iron Man 4, Marvel and Disney will have to renegotiate Downey’s contract, and in my mind, the companies not only get a great actor, but with this actor, they also get a marketing genius on the ground, which will pay for itself several times over.

Finishing a hot shot second this weekend is The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s 3D spectacle. With a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, and Joel Edgerton, and a director who has a style all his own, Gatsby was a good bet for Warner Bros. It became a better bet after Australian subsidies reduced the production budget from $190 million to $105 million; otherwise, this would have been a harder sell to studio brass. In the end, even at $190 million Gatsby would have worked, as the spectacle opened to a blistering $51.1 million, about $15 million more than the studio was estimating, and about $10 million more than tracking was indicating. Summer is only two weeks old at movie theatres, and studios have gone a strong two-for-two, unlike last year when Dark Shadows imploded in summer’s second frame.


The Great Gatsby was released to 3,535 theatres – the majority of them in 3D. Luhrmann’s odd spectacle earned a strong venue average of $14,460, coming in just under Iron Man 3 on Friday but falling far short over the full weekend. Gatsby opened for previews on Thursday, taking in $3.3 million, which means its "true" Friday gross came in at about $16.2 million. It had a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by "true" Friday gross) of 2.95. A number so close to 3.0 indicates that The Great Gatsby had strong audiences all weekend, whereas a number well below 3.0 would have indicated that Gatsby is frontloaded, and that the movie worked only as a date movie on Friday. Most analysts were expecting a frontloaded film, but that is clearly not the case.

Gatsby earned a B Cinemascore – only an okay result for a film like this, and reviews weren’t all that much different. At RottenTomatoes, critics were split, with 73 positive reviews and 79 negative (at the time of this writing) for an overall score of 48%. "Top critics" were less kind, with only 14 positive reviews and 30 negative, giving it a score of only 32%. Following the move out of last year’s awards season, Warner Bros. knew they had to have a big opening frame, and got it. Kudos to the marketing department (and Stephen Colbert) on the first three days, as personally, I think Gatsby and Luhrmann is an odd choice, but audiences turned up.

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