Box Office Guru Wrapup: Iron Man Rocks, Speed Racer Stalls

Iron Man convincingly retains its place at the top.

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There was no stopping the strength of Iron Man which dominated the multiplexes for a second straight frame grossing more than the two new releases combined. The race for second place was extremely close as the Warner Bros. family picture Speed Racer and Fox's comedy What Happens in Vegas delivered nearly identical numbers over the weekend. Regardless, the new product and the strong hold from the super hero giant helped the overall marketplace surge well ahead of year-ago levels.

Paramount ruled the box office again with the first installment of its new super hero franchise Iron Man which grossed an estimated $50.5M dropping 49% from last week. Compared to the studio's $102.1M bow which included Thursday night showtimes the second weekend decline was still just 51% which amounted to a strong hold given the enormous amount of business that was generated in the first weekend. The cume has soared to $177.1M already making it the top-grossing film of 2008 by surpassing the $150.7M that Horton Hears A Who has collected over the last two months.



Iron Man is off to the best start ever for a non-webslinger comic book movie. The total beat out ten-day starts for 2003's X2: X-Men United ($147.7M) and 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand ($175.3M). The third mutant adventure even launched over the lucrative Memorial Day holiday weekend. X2 dropped by a similar 53% in its second session and its ten-day cume would amount to roughly $174M at today's ticket prices so Iron Man is closely following that Marvel film's admissions trajectory. The second X-Men flick, which had the same May 2 opening date five years ago, went on to gross $214.9M domestically, or around $250M at 2008 prices.

The Robert Downey Jr. pic scored the largest sophomore weekend haul of any film since last May's Shrek the Third which banked $53M on its second frame. Positive word-of-mouth helped as fans are recommending the super hero film to others and helping to drive sales. Plus the two new releases ended up not providing too much competition. This Friday's release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the following week's debut of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will provide some formidable distractions very soon. But at its current pace, Iron Man should soar to $260-280M from North America alone and could break the $500M mark worldwide.



Warner Bros. and Fox both fought over the number two spot with their new releases. According to estimates released on Sunday, Warners won by a slim $200,000 margin however the rankings could get switched on Monday when final grosses are tabulated. But based on Friday and Saturday grosses, neither studio could claim a true victory as the race was too close to call.

The big-budget family film Speed Racer struggled in its opening weekend bowing to an estimated $20.2M from 3,606 locations. Averaging a decent $5,605 per theater, the PG-rated film from the Wachowski Brothers fell short of all industry expectations. Even the least bullish projections forecast a debut in the high $20M range. Panned by most critics, the colorful and stylized racing flick tried to target kids and parents but failed to truly connect with audiences. Other high profile live-action summer films based on cartoon shows of the past fared better like Scooby Doo which bowed to $54.2M in 2002 and The Flintstones which debuted to $37.2M over four days back in 1994. Speed Racer at least didn't crash and burn like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle which opened to a miserable $6.8M in 2000.



Warner Bros. calculated a slim 11% Sunday decline into its weekend estimate which may end coming down on Monday when final numbers are added up. Fox estimated a 29% Sunday drop for What Happens in Vegas and most major wide releases experienced 30-40% declines on Sunday. Speed Racer suffered from bad buzz and intense competition from Iron Man which appealed to many of the same people. Plus the racing pic is based on a property that lacks the broad mainstream appeal that other major summer films benefit from. With a reported production cost of well over $100M, Speed Racer also got off to a slow start overseas grossing just $12.8M from 30 markets. South Korea saw the largest international opening with $2.4M helped undoubtedly by the film's casting of Korean pop star Rain, however most countries saw debut weekends of under $1M.

Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher made their own bid for the runnerup spot with the new anti-romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas which took in an estimated $20M this weekend. Playing in 3,215 playdates, the PG-13 film averaged a solid $6,221 per venue. Vegas performed better than all the other recent comedies to hit the marketplace over the last month scoring higher than the openings for Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($17.7M), Baby Mama ($17.4M), and Made of Honor ($14.8M). In fact if the estimate holds, Vegas will enjoy the third best comedy opening of the year after 27 Dresses ($23M) and Meet the Browns ($20.1M).



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