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'Iron Man 3''s Big Overseas Opening Fans High Stateside Expectations; Why AMC and Regal Wrangled with Disney (VIDEO)

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood April 25, 2013 at 9:24PM

Disney/Marvel's "Iron Man 3" opened in 11 territories Wednesday, with a reported $13.2 million gross. That's more than previous series entries and more than the first day for last year's Disney/Marvel smash "The Avengers" in France.
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With AMC and Disney's deal initially resolved, it seemed unlikely that Regal would hold out much longer. Although direct competition between individual theaters has decreased, in most big cities and suburban locations moviegoers have a choice of places to see top hits, even if it means traveling a bit further. So it seemed unlikely that this would take too long to resolve with others. However, with the deal set up extending beyond this one film, and other distributors viewing the chains' response to Disney's demands as a sign of what they might demand, the logic behind fighting as hard as possible becomes more apparent.

Studios work on a more variable economic scale than theaters, with their expenses rising and falling based on the cost of individual films, while exhibitors have more fixed costs. The grosses for 2013 releases are down more than 20% for the year so far (total gross is somewhat higher with late 2012 having strong lingering returns). Paradoxically, this steep drop increases pressure on exhibitors when a promising new blockbuster lurks, positioning Disney, as the first of these to be released, in prime position. It didn't hurt their stance that they also released "The Avengers," last year's biggest hit, as well as "Oz: The Great and Powerful," up to this point the top grosser of 2013.

"Iron Man 2" opened to $128 million its opening weekend three years ago, a figure that has been bested six times since, led by "The Avengers" ($207 million). Estimates have been that "3" could take in $160 million or more, equal to or above "The Dark Knight Rises" (the best since "Avengers.")

 But more importantly for theaters, the following weeks are full of potential strong films. May 10 brings Cannes opener "The Great Gatsby" from Warner Bros. (with its festival showing coming after the U.S. release), "Star Trek Into the Darkness" (Paramount) on May 17 (with initial tracking suggesting an $85 million + opening haul). Then Memorial Day weekend brings "The Hangover Part 3" (Warner Bros.), "Fast and Furious 6" (Universal) and 20th Century-Fox's animated "Epic," with Sony landing on the final weekend with Will Smith's "After Earth."

2012 didn't live up to expectations: "Dark Shadows," "The Dictator," and "Battleship" all underperformed, while "Men in Black 3" delivered the best of the post-"Avengers" May openings at $54 million. The lineup this year has the potential of reversing the course of 2013 so far, at least on paper, even if "Iron Man 3" doesn't equal "The Avengers."

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This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Comics, Walt Disney Pictures, Iron Man 3


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