Friday, May 3, 2013

If <i>Iron Man 3</i> "Only" Makes $300 Million This Weekend, Will Hollywood Be Disappointed?

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Iron Man 3 movie
Iron Man 3: Everyone knows that Iron Man 3 is going to make a ton of money this weekend; the question is just how much it's going to make. At this point, a gross in the area of the $300 million or so each of the first two movies grossed would feel, ridiculously enough, like a disappointment following The Avengers and Iron Man 3's enormous foreign rollout over the past week. So yes, we have somehow arrived at a point where $300 million domestic could inspire a response resembling "eh"; hell, Iron Man 2 almost hit that point in 2010, despite having only a slightly weaker trajectory than its predecessor. I still don't really understand those who vastly prefer the first movie; I guess it's somewhat better-plotted in that it's a straight ahead origin story, but Iron Man 2 is just as funny, has better action sequences, and it has Sam Rockwell. If those aren't successful power plays, I don't know what are. That said, replacing Jon Favreau with Shane Black, who pretty much brought Downey back from the brink via the underseen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, feels like something of an upgrade, though highly paid action-screenwriter Black has never actually directed an action movie before.

Anyway, as much as I want to see Iron Man 3, its primary function this weekend will be as a box office savior, and to my earlier point regarding expectations of $300 million absolutely minimum, it's arguable that the first two Iron Man movies represent a turning point for the $300 million gross. In the 90s, $300 million was relatively rarified territory for a domestic box-office take, and while it certainly became more commonplace during the aughts, for a while it was reserved primarily for megafranchises: almost entirely for movies with "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," or "Spider-Man" in their titles (and even Potter only actually crossed the mark a handful of times). Even the later franchises that revved up to this area—Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Transformers—had to sort of work up to it through big-but-not-record-breaking first installments (Batman Begins; the first Shrek) or opening weekends (the first Pirates and Transformers movies).

In 2008, Iron Man was the first surprise $300 million grosser that felt a little like something you might call a niche (well, maybe the second after The Passion of the Christ). That's not to say that Iron Man is a cult item; obviously plenty of non-comics folks saw it and liked it. What's more surprising, in retrospect, is its out-of-the-box $100 million opening weekend—people were excited before they even saw it, vaulting Tony Stark to Peter Parker-level recognition. I mean, Sony made a new Spider-Man movie last year and it was taken almost as a given that it wouldn't make as much as any of the Iron Man movies! That's kind of crazy, right? I'd posit that while Iron Man is looked at as a four-quadrant mega-franchise and Twilight is looked it as campy girl stuff (at least in a lot of media), Iron Man is kind of like the dude version of Twilight: a really, really big deal for some people and probably roundly ignored by a large swath of the population. Maybe The Avengers, which must've transcended the young-male demo to some extent to get to $600 million, has changed that, though that also seems kind of strange, the idea that it took The Avengers to turn a bunch of people onto this Iron Man thing. I guess my point is that it seems increasingly rare for a movie to reach outside of its target audience; these summer movies just need to hit their target audience first, and/or hardest, and/or repeatedly.

The Iceman movie Michael Shannon
The Iceman: To my recollection, Michael Shannon has never played a contract killer before; though he seems like a good match for that job, his characters so far simply have the look of those who kill for fun or to combat personal demons, not for profit. Not only does The Iceman offer that novelty, then, it also offers more Shannon in general for those disappointed by his paltry screentime in Mud last weekend. Presumably because this movie is coming from Millennium Films, purveyor of many star-packed movies that might have rated studio releases 20 or 30 years ago, it is not a one-man show and actually features a number of other names: Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, James Franco and, uh, David Schwimmer. I hesitated to add Schwimmer, but then I thought, you know, Michael Shannon may be beloved by certain film fans and Boardwalk Empire viewers, but if we're going by actual name recognition, David Schwimmer is probably way more famous. Weird, right?

Generation Um... Keanu Reeves
Generation Um…: Speaking of movies from 20 or 30 years ago: this Keanu Reeves vehicle I guess is supposed to be about a generation of people that somehow includes nearly-50 Reeves and his late-20 costars. This 25-year generation is defined by the movie as people who have oblique, inarticulate conversations about how confused they are by each other. As you can tell, this movie is a fucking riot. Totally worth the 100 minutes of your time for a few nicely extended takes of nothing happening. It does feed into my theory that the first weekend in May, a blockbuster starting gate for about 15 years now, is weird opposite-land for indies: where to throw your unmarketable, borderline-unwatchable mini-movie next to a speeding train, where no one will notice it starving to death.

Love is All You Need Susanne Bier Pierce Brosnan
Love Is All You Need: This romantic comedy from Susanne Bier looks an awful lot like a non-singing Mamma Mia, right down to including noted non-singer and Mamma Mia star Pierce Brosnan. As a non-fan of ABBA, that should like an improvement to me, but actually, Brosnan belting the hell out of "S.O.S." and failing is by far the most amazing thing about Mamma Mia. So maybe I'll YouTube that a few times and skip this one.

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