FINAL WEEKEND TRACKING: 'Iron Man' targets $5M Thur & $102M by Mon morning; 'Made to Honor' with a likely $16.75M!
by Steve Mason
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: I did a personal survey of studio sources today, and they were unanimous in saying that the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 video game sensation that his the market on Tuesday, will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the box-office performance of Iron Man (Paramount) this weekend.
As I wrote on Monday, this Jon Favreau-directed comic book adaptation is outpacing last summer's Dreamworks/Paramount smash Transformers, which is no small feat. Iron Man is not one of Marvel's "top shelf" comic book titles, and yet they have self-financed a film that is getting raves from critics — 93 percent Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes — and industry tracking shows Un-Aided Awareness, an excellent measure of buzz and anticipation, approaching 30 percent.
This is the first of 10 films from Marvel Studios. They only have licensing deals for Spider-Man (Sony) and X-Men (20th Century Fox), but they have produced and financed Iron Man on their own dime, and it's now clear that the gamble will pay off in a big way. The timing is perfect, because on Monday, Marvel will announce earnings, and a huge Iron Man opening will likely give the company's stock a potent short-term boost.
Paramount is playing it "by the book" and downplaying expectations, and the number that seems to be kicking around over on Melrose is for a $75 million opening. With a 50-plus percent Definite Interest number and a 30-plus percent First Choice score, I see this movie flying well past that mark. I am, however, slightly scaling back my most recent predictions for the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle's opening weekend.
When the movie opens Thursday night, starting at 8 p.m., it will probably fall short of the $8 million early-preview take of Spider-Man 3 and Transformers. I'm dialing back to a $5 million Thursday night take. Thursday will take a slight bite out of Iron Man's Friday number, but $34 million is likely, and then the picture should get a modest bump on Saturday to $35 million. Add $28 million on Sunday, and I'm expecting $102 million for Thursday night thru Sunday. That could translate, over the long haul, to a total domestic gross of between $275 million and $300 million.
Marvel stockholders should be very happy in the near-term, and numbers like that will certainly guarantee a couple of Iron Man sequels. The new studio will follow up with The Incredible Hulk in June, which doesn't seem like as much of a slam-dunk. Then will come projects featuring second-tier Marvel characters like Thor, Captain America and Nick Fury. These are much tougher sells, but success is certainly possible.
As for Sony's female-skewing counterprogramming gambit, the Patrick Dempsey film Made of Honor, it will be an uphill climb. One studio exec compared its tracking to Warner Bros. Christmas release P.S. I Love You. It's clearly a notch better than that, with what I'm hearing is a stronger Total Aware (70 percent to 67 percent), Definite Interest (29 percent to 24 percent) and First Choice (8 percent to 5 percent). The Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler chick-flick opened with a three-day of $6.7 million and grabbed a mere $14.2 million in its first seven days, which included Christmas. Dempsey's role on Grey's Anatomy puts him right in the wheelhouse of Females 25 Plus, but it's still difficult to see how Made of Honor gets much past $15 million on opening weekend, and the rom-com's ceiling is about $18 million.
Here are my final predictions for the first weekend of the summer blockbuster season:
1. Iron Man (Paramount) — $97 million (Fri.-Sun.), $102 million (Thurs.-Sun.)
2. Made of Honor (Sony) — $16.75 million
3. Baby Mama (Universal) — $8.9 million
4. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) — $6.8 million
5. Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo (Warner Bros.) — $6.7 million
6. The Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate) — $6.25 million
7. Nim's Island (20th Century Fox) — $3 million
8. 21 (Sony) — $2.7 million
9. Prom Night (Sony) — $2.2 million
10. Horton Hears a Who (20th Century Fox) — $1.6 million