The big news this weekend: Disney/Marvel's "Iron Man 3" opened in most of the world between Wednesday and Friday; its $195 million gross in 42 territories is running ahead of even last year's "number one global blockbuster "The Avengers," which initially grossed $185 million in similar dates.
The good news is that "Iron Man 3" hits American theaters next Friday, and not a minute too soon. This weekend stateside was abysmal. The top 10 only managed to gross around $75 million - 10 films in total grossing less than 40% of what one film did in the rest of the world. This was a big drop from last week's $96 million, and $92 million last year (as once again 2013 falls further behind 2012 to-date take.) Whether the U.S. totals next weekend will approach "Avengers"' $207 million last year (which is above the early estimates) remains to be seen, but anything close will sighs of relief industrywide.
Two new films, Paramount's "Pain & Gain" and Lionsgate's "The Big Wedding," both performed below expectations, while the holdovers did not make up the slack.
One encouraging note: Roadside Attraction's "Mud" with Matthew McConaughey placed 11th in just 363 theaters, with a wider release planned for next week. Stay tuned for full details in Arthouse Audit.
1. Pain & Gain (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: C+; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 45
$20,000,000 in 3,277 theaters; PSA (per screen average):; Cumulative: $20,000,000
Michael Bay's least expensive film in many years ($26 million, with significant back-end participation for its principals in exchange for high upfront pay) opened to his lowest haul since "The Island" in 2005 opened to $12.4 million. Standing alone as the only young audience release this week, with two proven action stars (Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson) as further draws, this Miami-set true-life crime story with a comedic side fell a bit from its first to second day, suggesting mixed audience response. With "Iron Man 3" likely to take most of the business next week, it made sense for Paramount to take advantage of the lull this week. But the result, though much better than several action-star openers this years (including Wahlberg's "Broken City") falls far below its potential.
What comes next: This could struggle to reach $50 million in domestic gross, far less than the opening weekends for Bay's "Transformers" films.
2. Oblivion (Universal) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1
$17,400,000 (-53%) in 3,792 theaters (+9); PSA: $4,600; Cumulative: $64,700,000
The 53% drop is more than what a strong film should show on a second week, suggesting that this won't be around deep into May and that domestic grosses will peak somewhere around $100 million. Fortunately, international is about double the U.S./Canada gross so far for a combined $198 million so far, with China and Japan still to open.
What comes next: This should do $300 million or more worldwide before it's done, making this (compared to cost) another global Tom Cruise success, though not close to "Mission: Impossible" series level.
3. 42 (Warner Bros.) Week 3 ; Last weekend: #2
$10,725,000 (-40%) in 3,405 theaters (+155); PSA:; Cumulative: $69,079,000
Hitting more barriers to widespread success than its initial rare A+ Cinemascore suggested, "42" is still giving a solid account for itself as it heads to a potential $100 million domestic gross (which because of its baseball and American history focus will be most of its worldwide take).
What comes next: The unexpected interest in this film - not star driven, oriented towards adults and with an African-American story and relatively inexpensive cost - could lead to studios dusting off similar projects.
4. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: C-; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 30
$7,500,000 in 2,633 theaters; PSA: $2,848; Cumulative: $7,500,000
Aimed at older audiences, with a veteran all-Oscar winning cast headlining this comedy (along with Katherine Heigl and Amanda Seyfried), this Lionsgate acquisition of a Millennium Films production confronted negative reviews, leading to a disappointing performance for what looked like an appealing venture.
Saturday night at least had a decent jump from Friday, suggesting some interest among its demographic, but this doesn't look at this point like it is in for a long run, despite its smart counter-programming date. However with its initial $35 million production cost plus additional marketing expense, this looks like it could be headed to a significant loss for all parties.
Director Justin Zackham (who wrote "The Bucket List") made one previous feature, "Going Greek," which Miramax acquired in 2001 with no significant theatrical release. This film is a remake of Swiss comedy "Mon frere se marie," which never got U.S. distribution.
What comes next: There is room for a comedy to thrive versus upcoming blockbuster releases, so the timing for this made sense. Unfortunately, it will need to rebound quickly to have any chance of overcoming these week opening numbers.