WINNER OF THE WEEK: Mud. Oh, I know, I'm supposed to say Disney. After all, Iron Man 3 just pulled off the second-biggest domestic opening weekend ever, an estimated $175.3 million, second only to the $207.4 million premiere of last year's fellow Marvel release, The Avengers. What's more, its advance release overseas means it's already earned another $504.8 million abroad. The movie's $680.1 million worldwide total pushed Disney past the $1 billion threshold for the 19th straight year, and in the shortest time ever.
Impressive numbers, to be sure, but not at all unexpected. Predictions were in the $150-$175 million range, given all that Iron Man 3 had going for it – audience goodwill from The Avengers, lack of new wide-release competition, the traditional beginning of the summer movie season this weekend, an ultra-wide release pattern (4,253 venues), the 3D and IMAX surcharges (new to this franchise), good reviews, strong word-of-mouth (it earned an A from CinemaScore), Disney's marketing might, and buzz from last weekend's huge international debut ($198.4 million). The only real question was whether it would beat the previous all-time No. 2 premiere, the $169.2 million opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011. (Answer: Yup.)
In fact, Iron Man 3 was so enormous that it sucked all the oxygen out of the multiplex, drawing viewers away from the big-budget holdovers that had opened in recent weeks. In that environment, upstart Mud poked its head up and snuck into the top 10. Having opened last weekend at No. 11 with $2.215 million, the Matthew McConaughey drama expanded from 363 theaters to 576 and held on to all but three percent of last weekend's business. This week's estimated $2.15 million was good enough to land Mud in seventh place, and to prove that there are still some grown-ups who want to see something besides whiz-bang spectacle in theaters.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Everyone else. So many people went to see Iron Man 3 that no other film earned more than $7.6 million this weekend. That's the estimated take for the second-place Pain and Gain, down 63 percent from its debut last week, for a 10-day total of $33.9 million. In third place, 42 lost a modest 42 percent, rounding the bases with an estimated $6.2 million, for a four-week total of $78.3 million. At number four, Oblivion picked up an estimated $5.8 million, down a steep 67 percent from last week. Having moved from summer to April in order to beat Iron Man 3 to the punch, the Tom Cruise sci-fi epic grabbed about $70 million in the two weeks before Robert Downey Jr.'s threequel hit theaters. Still in the top five after seven weeks, cartoon The Croods added an estimated $4.2 million, for a total of $168.7 million to date.
YOU-KNOW-WHO COMETH: Mud was not the only example of smart indie counterprogramming to succeed on a small scale against the Marvel onslaught. Iceman, the mob hitman biopic starring Michael Shannon, opened on four screens and knocked off an estimated $93,100. That's a per-screen average of $23,275, a huge number by any standards (except those of Iron Man 3, which averaged $41,218 per venue). Also doing well, by four-screen standards, were romance Love Is All You Need ($39,000, or $9,750 per screen) and fashion documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's ($38,300, or $9,575 per venue). Henry James adaptation What Maisie Knew opened on just one screen but scored an Iceman-sized $23,200. Expect these movies and others to jockey for position in a crowded indie marketplace over the summer months. In other words, the art-house will look just like the forest of thick blockbuster tentpoles at the multiplex, only with an Iron deficiency.