Weekend box office: “Iron Man 2” holds on in U.S., but “Robin Hood” makes out like a bandit abroad

Seeing as we have two action movies in contention this week, I’ll cut to the chase. Marvel and Paramount’s “Iron Man 2,” as was universally expected back before the weekend started, easily held on to its #1 spot at the box office. Ir scored a weekend estimate of $53 million that nevertheless included a somewhat higher than average drop of over 58%, indicating that the movie, as I imagined, isn’t quite wowing filmgoers the way the first movie in the franchise did.

This week’s big debut, “Robin Hood” has generally received a decidedly mixed reaction from, as far as I can tell, everyone who sees. It came in slightly below expectations at an estimate of roughly $37.1 million for Universal. (Earlier, the box office gurus were talking about figures in the range of $40-50 million.) Nevertheless, though the reaction be “meh,” not all the news for brave Sir Robin is mediocre. Indeed, THR this morning trumpeted a take of $74 million from just under 6,944 screens across the globe, making it the world’s #1 movie.

Russell Crowe is, I guess, It’s been a long, long time since my stint in an International Sales wing of a smallish film company, but it appears that, then as now, the combination of a really well-known star like Russell Crowe, action, and a strong (at least in theory) storyline remains the formula for success in non-English-speaking territories. I’m sure this news is music to the ears of the suits of recently bad luck/bad decision prone Universal.

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Weekend box office: poor, poor “Iron Man 2″…

“It broke no records” seems to be the fairly silly refrain. According to Box Office Mojo, “Iron Man 2” made only an estimated $133.6 million Paramount and Marvel Productions. Why, that’s not even enough money to buy a pound of Kobe beef for the entire state of Hawaii! Of course, at $163,193,428.00 they’ll hit that milestone shortly. (Yes, I did the math, based on the $380.00 it costs to buy four pounds of Kobe New York steaks via mail order from Neiman-Marcus.).  That’s the problem with all this bar setting, it makes massive success look like failure.

I personally succumbed to that mania partially on Thursday. I did that mostly in deference to the gurus who generated the mania, even knowing that, while it’s not a bad movie, almost everyone seems to agree it’s some level of let down from the first film — the only real disagreement is how much. (There are people out there who didn’t even care for the first film for perfectly legitimate reasons, shocking as that might be to some of you.)

Jon Favreau has made some charming movies — I love “Elf” — but “The Dark Knight,” this ain’t. However, Anthony D’Alessandro points out some good reasons why, in terms of box office at least, that might be an unfair comparison. He also mentions that it pulled a 31% improvement over the original’s opening, which is “well within the perameters [sic] for most sequels.” It’s worth noting that the movie more than justified the one record it really did break — the number of theaters it was booked into. It’s 4,380 screens enjoyed by far the week’s best per screen average (which usually goes to a limited release film) with a terrific per-screen average of $30,502.00.  Still, I can’t help wondering if Favreau’s improvisational approach, which he discussed in some detail at the film’s press conference, might have limited the power of the film’s story and hence it’s long-term appeal. We’ll see.

In any case, given the film’s international take of $194 million so far according to Nikki Finke, it’s already significantly exceeding its $200 million production budget by roughly $127 million. That is not shabby. ($200 million is now considered low for this kind of movie, I guess. Marvel is the stingy maker of efx laden epics. I guess there are a number of big salaries to pay.)

Freddy contemplates his rapidly dropping grosses in despairComing in a very poor second indeed is the latest horror remake, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It dropped a gigantic 72% in its second week, obviously not generating a whole lot of excitement in terms of word of mouth and also probably sharing a big part of its youngish audience with “Iron Man 2.” Coming in third place is Warner’s extremely strong “How to Train Your Dragon” which is leggy as all get out and made $6.76 million in its seventh week. It cracked the $200 million mark this week, though it’s $165 million budget shows just how risky a gamble this kind of movie can still be. However, if you can make a family picture that parents truly enjoy, you can be reasonably sure the world will beat a path to your door.

It’s also important to remind everyone that Sunday hasn’t actually happened yet as I write this and I’m not sure the Mom’s day factor is all that easily predictable. One movie that could benefit from a Sunday surge is the “awww” generating documentary, “Babies,” which did okay in it’s 534 theater release, earning $1.575 million and a per-screen average of $2,949.00. The week’s second highest per-screen according to Box Office Mojo (which is missing several key movies on its list) also benefits from a mom’s day tie-in as its title, “Mother and Child,” makes clear. It earned about $11,000 per screen at four theaters for Sony Classics. According to Indiewire, that figure was nearly matched by a movie that is just a few years younger than Betty White, Fritz Lang’s once-again re-restored “Metropolis” which — visually, anyhow — blew me away at the TCM Classic Film Festival just a weekend or two ago.

Actually, there’s much more going on regarding limited releases than I have time to discuss, including strong business for “Please Give” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop” as well as not-bad biz for “Harry Brown” and perhaps some spectacular showings on individual screenings for that horror movie I’m not talking about. The above-linked Indiewire is the place to go for such information.

Do not f*ck with Michael Caine. Trust me.

  

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Wednesday movie quickies (a bit quicker than usual)

If you’re on the lookout for new and wholly original ideas from mainstream Hollywood, like almost all days, today ain’t your day.

Tom Cruise saves the day in * Mike Fleming has the news that ol’ Tom Cruise will be back for one more round of “Mission: Impossible” derring-do as earnest super-agent Ethan Hunt. On board is co-producer, J.J. Abrams, whose “MI:3” was to my mind by far the best film in the series (actually, the only good one, despite the involvement in past outings of such greats as Robert Towne and John Woo).  The franchise had been somewhat in doubt prior because of certain comments during the ruckus and bad blood raised by Mr. Cruise’s Oprah couch-hopping incident and Scientology-inspired public statements:

Gee, remember the bad old days when Cruise and Paramount parent company Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone were on the outs? Guess that old Hollywood saying is as true as ever: “I’ll never work with him again — until I need him.”

* Darren Aronofsky remains involved with the proposed “Robocop” remake/reboot.

* Fresh off the success of “The Book of Eli,” the Hughes Brothers will be directing the long-discussed live-action film version of the manga that probably made more converts for Japanese comic books than any other work during the eighties comic book boom, “Akira.” So says Vulture (via /Film). Meanwhile, Simon Dang over at The Playlist provides us with his thoughtful take on the career of the brothers Hughes (and a funny video which I may steal later).

akira2

  

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Planet Hulk

For as much as Marvel utilizes him in their animated films, you’d think that the Hulk was the company’s flagship character. “Planet Hulk” marks the fifth appearance of the Not So Jolly Green Giant (including all three Avengers films and last year’s double feature, “Hulk Vs.”), and quite frankly, it’s starting to get a bit out of hand. While the Hulk deserves his share of the spotlight just as much as the next Marvel superhero, the decision to follow up one Hulk-centric feature with another only risks alienating those who aren’t fans of his comics. Based on the miniseries of the same name, the story begins with the Hulk awakening to discover that he’s been shipped to an uninhabited planet by the Illuminati after being deemed too dangerous for Earth. When Hulk causes the shuttle to malfunction and crash land on the planet of Sakaar, however, he’s forced to partake in the gladiatorial games by the planet’s leader, the Red King.

What follows is essentially “Gladiator” lite, with the Hulk teaming up with his fellow contestants to overthrow the Red King and earn their freedom. The problem with this formula is that the Hulk isn’t exactly leading man material, and although the writers try to remedy that by giving him more to say than just “Hulk smash!,” it feels terribly out of character. The story itself is plagued with flashbacks for supporting characters that draw attention away from the titular hero, while the action scenes are fairly bland when compared to the far superior “Hulk Vs.” Fans of the Hulk will still enjoy seeing one of Marvel’s most recent mini-events come to life, but next time around, they’d be better off choosing a bigger crossover event that appeals to a larger audience like “Civil War” or “Secret Invasion.”

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Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Volume One

Following the box office success of “Iron Man” last summer, it was pretty much a given that Marvel would move forward with an animated series. When it was announced that Tony Stark would be getting the high school treatment, however, my interest in the project plummeted. Fortunately, I still had a lingering curiosity as to how it would turn out, and although a teenage version of Iron Man certainly isn’t ideal, the show actually works better than expected thanks to some solid writing and slick CG animation. Loosely based on the comic book roots, the series begins with teenage prodigy Tony Stark putting the finishing touches on his latest invention. But before he can show it off to his dad, he’s killed by longtime business partner, Obadiah Stane, in a coup to take over Stark Industries. Now, with the help of his friends Rhodey and Pepper, Tony begins to unravel the mystery behind Stane’s takeover, all while playing superhero in his new Iron Man armor. Sadly, only six episodes are included in this Volume One collection, so while we do get to see classic Iron Man baddies like Mandarin, Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo, you’ll be left wanting more when it’s all over. That may be Marvel’s intention, but with the new sequel due out in theaters this May, let’s hope they release the entire first season in time for casual fans to discover what they’re missing.

Click to buy “Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Volume One”

  

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